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