Jerusalem, Jan.18: The security cabinet of Israel has reportedly approved a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, at least from the Israeli side of the border with Gaza. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the cease-fire proposal on Saturday, while adding that the goals of Israel's offensive in Gaza had been achieved.
Israel's 12-member Security Cabinet was expected to approve the Egyptian proposal, under which fighting would stop immediately for 10 days. Israeli forces would remain in Gaza and the territory''s border crossings with Israel and Egypt would remain closed until security arrangements are made to prevent Hamas arms smuggling.
Under the deal, Egypt would shut down weapons smuggling routes with international help and discussions on opening Gaza''s blockaded border crossings — Hamas' key demand — would take place at a later date. Israel, however, has no immediate plans to withdraw troops from Gaza. The cease-fire in all likelihood will entail the end of Israeli attacks on Hamas now that the militant Palestinian group appears to have been disabled to the point that there is less of a threat of rocket attacks on southern Israel.
Hamas leaders have repeated that it will not respect any cease-fire as long as Israel remains inside Gaza. More than 1,100 Palestinians have been killed in the three weeks of violence, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Thirteen Israelis have also died.
U N Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that a unilateral cease-fire should be accompanied by a timetable for withdrawal, but a Hamas spokesman said the group would not stop fighting until Israel is out of Gaza.
The proposed cease-fire arrangement follows Friday's signing of a 'memorandum of understanding' in Washington between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni that calls for expanded intelligence cooperation to prevent Hamas from rearming.
Livni called the deal, reached on the final working day of the Bush administration, 'a vital complement for a cessation of hostility.' Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev saying he was hopeful that Israel is "entering the endgame" on its Gaza offensive.