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Israeli PM Announces Cease-Fire in Gaza

  • VOA News

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced Israel is ending its three-week military offensive against the militant group Hamas in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian medics say the fighting has killed nearly 12-hundred people in the territory.

The decision for a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza came during a vote in Israel's security cabinet on Saturday. After the meeting, Mr. Olmert said Israel's operation in Gaza had achieved all its goals, with Hamas badly beaten.

The plan calls for an immediate halt to military activity (at 0000 GMT on Sunday), after which Israeli forces would remain in Gaza for several days while long-term plans are worked out. Israel's prime minister said Israeli troops would respond if attacked.

Earlier on Saturday, Hamas leaders said the group will fight on unless its demands are met. Hamas wants a total Israeli pullout from Gaza within a week and a re-opening of all Gaza border crossings, including the one with Egypt.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is set to host an international summit on the Gaza crisis on Sunday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and world leaders from Britain, Germany, France, Spain and Turkey are expected to attend.

Israeli launched the offensive on December 27th, in an effort to stop militant rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. About 10 rockets were launched toward Israel on Saturday.

Israel carried out overnight air strikes on 50 Hamas targets, including suspected rocket-launching sites and arms smuggling tunnels.

United Nations officials say two boys were killed in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya when Israeli shelling hit a U.N.-run school. Mr. Ban condemned what he called an "outrageous" attack.

A World Health Organization official (Tony Laurence) said Saturday that 16 health facilities and 16 ambulances have been damaged and destroyed in Gaza, mostly by indirect fire. He added medics have found it nearly impossible to reach the wounded or dead because of the fighting.

Thousands of people took to the streets in several major European cities on Saturday to protest Israel's offensive in Gaza.

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