Abbas says deal on truce reached
Palestinian president tells reporters in Amman that Israel has agreed not to target Hamas leaders, ease restrictions on Gaza's residents in exchange for halt in Qassam fire. Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, says lull in Gaza reached as a result of 'the failure of the Israeli operation in the Strip.' Palestinian statements contradict remarks made by Olmert, Barak
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas confirmed Monday that an agreement on a truce between Israel and Hamas had been reached, the al-Arabiyah network reported. Abbas made the comment during a meeting with Jordan's King Abdullah in Amman.
According to the report, the deal was executed with Egyptian mediation, following an American request that a truce be reached and that the talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority be resumed.
"There is an agreement in principle on this issue," Abbas told reporters at the end of his meeting with the Jordanian king. "Hamas and the Jihad have asked that their leaders would not be hurt, and I believe the Israelis have agreed to this. We are expected to hear about such a deal in the coming days."
As part of the agreement, the Palestinian president said, Hamas would stop firing rockets at Israel, and in exchange, Israel would refrain from targeting Hamas members, would halt its attacks in Gaza, would ease the siege and would consider reopening the crossings.
Hamas' prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, also mentioned the existence of a truce Monday, saying that his government would help the Egyptian leadership reach a lull in the Strip.
Haniyeh thus confirmed the Ynet report on understandings reached between Israel and Hamas on a lull. According to the Hamas leader, Egypt's efforts were focused on reaching an overall, simultaneous reciprocal truce, in a bid to lift the siege imposed on the Palestinian people.
According to Haniyeh, the lull was reached as a result of the failure of the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip.
"We are monitoring the developments following the failure of the Israeli offensive in the Strip and its defeat in the face of the Palestinian people's unity and the might of its fighters and its sacrifice which has been revealed to the entire world.
"The change in the Israeli stance and the halt in the attack on the Gaza Strip are an Israeli recognition in its failure and stress the principle of the deterrence balance enforced by the Palestinian resistance."
'Important trials still ahead'
Olmert said Monday, "There is no agreement and there are no direct or indirect talks… The IDF enjoys complete freedom of action; we have not dictated any ceasefire."
The prime minister added that that to the best of his knowledge, "Egypt has no mandate to try and reach a truce agreement with Hamas. The dialogue with Egypt continues, but only on routine bilateral issues. Israel has not appealed to Egypt and has not asked anything regarding Hamas."
Speaking at a press conference following his meeting with Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek in Jerusalem, Olmert said that the IDF was not looking for excuses to strike in Gaza. "We fight because they fight against us," he stated.
The prime minister vowed that "if terror stops, if Qassams cease to land in Sderot and Grad rockets in Ashkelon, and the incessant arms smuggling and infiltrations end – Israel would hold its fire."
Defense Minister Barak said Monday that "whoever thinks that this is the end of the story and that there's already a truce is wrong… We haven't finished anything and the important trials are still ahead."
Ynet reported on Sunday that Palestinian sources in the Strip had claimed that Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza have reached an understanding that would lead to a ceasefire in the area.
According to the sources, the lull has already gone into effect this weekend, during which only one rocket was fired on Israel's southern communities.
In exchange for the suspension of rocket attacks, the sources said, Israel has committed to halting ground operations and air strikes in Gaza.
Roee Nahmias contributed to this report