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Israel, Hamas Claim Success in Gaza

  • VOA News

Israeli and Hamas leaders are claiming success in three weeks of conflict, as a cease-fire in Gaza appears to be holding.

Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert says the offensive has achieved all its goals, and that he wants his country's troops out of Gaza as soon as possible.

Gaza-based Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh on Monday declared victory in the conflict. A masked spokesman of the movement's military wing, Abu Ubaida, vowed to renew attacks if Israeli forces do not leave within a week.

Also today, Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah said during an Arab economic summit in Kuwait that his country will donate one billion (U.S.) dollars for reconstruction in Gaza.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the summit, said he is launching a high-level humanitarian team this week to assess the situation in the war-torn Gaza Strip.

The armed wing of Hamas issued its first statement on losses today, claiming the militant group lost 48 fighters and killed at least 80 Israeli soldiers during the fighting.

But these numbers differ from tolls offered by both Israel and Palestinian health officials in Gaza. Israel says it killed more than 500 Hamas members and lost 10 Israeli soldiers, while Palestinian officials say at least 12-hundred Palestinians died, with at least half of them civilians.

As Israel grants slightly more access to Gaza and fighting eases, foreign journalists and aid workers are beginning to uncover the extent of the devastation -- with houses, public buildings and the territory's infrastructure heavily damaged.

Arab leaders are also asking the International Atomic Energy Agency to formally investigate whether Israel used ordnance containing depleted uranium. The dense metal can be used to reinforce shells, and long-term exposure can be harmful.

Also at the summit in Kuwait, Saudi King Abdullah urged Israel to act on a 2002 Arab peace initiative, warning that the offer would not be held out forever.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Syrian President Bashar al Assad both condemned Israeli actions in Gaza, while Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called for a national unity government for the territories.

Hamas leaders ousted the Palestinian Authority, dominated by the rival Fatah movement, from Gaza in 2007.

Mr. Abbas said a unity government is needed to cope with the humanitarian catastrophe. He also called for new parliamentary and presidential elections.

The European Union announced today it will continue advocating a solution to the conflict in separate meetings in Brussels with Arab and Israeli leaders. The Czech Presidency of the Union says EU and Israeli foreign affairs ministers will meet Wednesday, while EU ministers will meet with their counterparts from Egypt, Jordan, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority on Sunday.

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