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Middle East

Gaza ceasefire delicate as diplomacy continues

Article published on the 2009-01-18 Latest update 2009-01-18 15:17 TU

Israeli soldiers crossing the Gaza border back to Israel early on Sunday
(Photo: Reuters)

Israeli soldiers crossing the Gaza border back to Israel early on Sunday
(Photo: Reuters)

On Sunday, the unilateral ceasefire declared by Israel was holding despite continued violence. Its army said it carried out an airstrike on Sunday against rocket launching in the north of the Gaza Strip.

The truce came into effect at two in the morning on Sunday with Israeli tanks pulling back about 100 metres from positions east of Rafah, and from near the northern town of Jabaliya.

The Israeli army initially said five rockets had been fired into Israel on Sunday, four of them falling in Sderot. No casualties were reported. There was also fighting in the Tuffah neighbourhood of Gaza city on Sunday when an Israeli tank unit fired on gunmen, the army said.

The ceasefire was welcomed by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband who said "too many lives have been lost" and that the ceasefire "would cause huge relief".

It was criticised however by Israel's opposition party, Likud, when senior party member Sylvan Shalom said the objectives of the offensive that was launched on 27 December had not been met.

He pointed to continued rocket fire into Israel and the ongoing detention of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. In response to the truce, Hamas has said it will not accept the presence of any Israeli soldiers in Gaza.

Leo Vinovezky of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs told RFI early on Sunday that six rockets, rather than the earlier figure of five, had been fired into Israel since the truce was declared.

Interview: Leo Vinovezky in Sderot, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israel is keeping open the option of reopening hostilities as rockets landed near the town of Sderot on Sunday. Leo Vinovezky of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Hamas' infrastructure is not completely destroyed and points out that that IDF remains in the Gaza strip "ready for any scenario".

18/01/2009 by Tony Cross

Asked how he could be certain that it was Hamas rather than other militant groups in the Gaza strip he responded that it was "because who is actually governing the part of the Gaza strip is actually Hamas."

He said Hamas infrastructure had not been entirely destroyed but that the army had "gained the vast majority of the goals of this campaign".

He said restarting the offensive remained an option for the Israeli army: "Th IDF are still there in the Gaza strip, ready for any scenario."

RFI reporter Tony Cross attempted to view the rockets but was told they were outside the town of Sderot itself.

Palestinian medics said on Sunday that rescue teams had removed 25 bodies from rubble in the towns of Jabaliya and Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip. They said the dead included several children.

In front of the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza, RFI reporter Catherine Monnet spoke to a Red Crescent doctor and member of the medical team as a new wave of medical staff arrived.

"You will be shocked by what has happened, by what is happening", the doctor told his new colleagues, having been at work in Gaza for ten days.

"I've followed several armed conflicts of course, but I've never seen horror like that in Gaza," he told RFI, adding that maintaining the ceasefire may not be simple, "It's not easy to install a ceasefire as long as the two parties are a few metres [from each other]".

A summit is due to be held later on Sunday in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt and will be co-chaired by Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

It will bring together German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero and Italian Prime Minister Sivlio Berlusconi as well as the UN head Ban Ki-moon.

and Jorday will also be represented at the summit and Merkl, Sarkozy and Berlusconi are due to travel to Israel after the meeting to continue negotiations. Turkey

The death toll from the Israeli offensive now stands at 1,206 Palestinians according to medics in Gaza. Over 5,000 have been wounded and the dead include over 400 children, the medics say.

Listen

Interview: Leo Vinovezky in Sderot, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Audio - 4 minutes 52 seconds)

Interview: Leo Vinovezky in Sderot, Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israel is keeping open the option of reopening hostilities as rockets landed near the town of Sderot on Sunday. Leo Vinovezky of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs says Hamas' infrastructure is not completely destroyed and points out that that IDF remains in the Gaza strip "ready for any scenario".

2009-01-18

Dossier