Sunday, 17-November-2019 10:44
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Sunday, 26-November-2006
Middle East online- - GAZA CITY - Palestinian prime minister and Hamas leader Ismail Haniya reaffirmed Sunday the commitment of Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to stop firing rockets at Israel.

"What happened today is being reviewed and we are in contact with the political leaders of the factions and there is a renewed commitment to the (ceasefire) agreement, but it hinges on Israel halting its aggression against the Palestinian people," Haniya told journalists in the Gaza Strip.

The armed wings of the ruling Islamist Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad, both of which signed on to the ceasefire accord, each claimed responsibility for the rocket attacks which hit the Israeli town of Sderot shortly before 8:00 am (0600 GMT), causing no casualties.

The attacks, which were quickly condemned by both the Hamas-led government and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, marked an inauspicious start to the ceasefire which came into play at 6:00 am (0400 GMT).

He praised the ceasefire agreement "because the Palestinian factions and resistance groups acted according to the higher interests of the Palestinian people ... to reduce their suffering".

Islamic Jihad, however, has expressed reservations about the ceasefire following overnight raids by the Israeli army in the northern West Bank town of Jenin.

"This morning there were incursions in (the northern West Bank city of) Jenin and also arrests," said Abu Ahmed, a spokesman for the group's armed wing Suraya al-Quds.

"We will not abide any ceasefire as long as the Zionist enemy does not totally adhere to it as well."

Haniya said faction leaders would sit down again Sunday evening to resume discussions on the ceasefire, under which Israel withdrew its forces from Gaza shortly after dawn, according to an army spokeswoman.

Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, vowing restraint and patience in the coming days, said he had ordered the army not to respond to the attacks.

"We will show restraint and patience in order to give the ceasefire a chance," said Olmert, speaking at the inauguration of a school in the Bedouin town of Rahat in southern Israel.

"I took into account the possibility that ceasefires do not materialize immediately to their fullest extent without any violations," he added.

Olmert said he was optimistic the ceasefire would soon be extended to include the West Bank.

Abbas, who had condemned the rocket attacks, ordered Palestinian security forces to deploy across the northern Gaza Strip to prevent further violations of the ceasefire, according to senior Palestinian security officials in Gaza.

Under the ceasefire accord Palestinian militant groups were to stop firing rockets at Israel from dawn Sunday, with Israel in exchange promising to halt military operations and withdraw from the Palestinian territory.

The Palestinian Authority and Israel agreed to the ceasefire after a phone conversation between Olmert and Abbas, during which Abbas told the Israeli premier that the Palestinian factions were willing to stop firing rockets, according to Abbas spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina.

In exchange, Israel promised to "respond favorably" and withdraw its forces which were mostly deployed in northern Gaza in a bid to combat the rocket fire, according to the army.

The United States welcomed the ceasefire agreement as a step toward peace.

"We welcome the announcement and see this as a positive step forward," said White House spokesman Alex Conant. "We hope that it leads to less violence for the Israeli and Palestinian people."

The five-month offensive in Gaza to counter Palestinian rocket attacks, which have become a near daily event since Israel withdrew from the still besieged Gaza Strip in 2005, has taken a hefty toll.

More than 400 Palestinians (mostly civilians) and three Israeli soldiers have been killed since the military launched a massive counter-offensive in late June aimed at rescuing a captured soldier and ending the constant rocket menace.

But Israel has conceded it is helpless to stop the homemade projectiles from striking Israel. Although the rockets are inaccurate and rarely cause casualties, in the past two weeks they have killed two Israelis.

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