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Hamas confirms ceasefire

Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday said they have reached a long-awaited ceasefire with Israel meant to end months of Palestinian assaults on Israeli border towns and bruising Israeli retaliation.

world Updated: Jun 17, 2008 23:20 IST

Gaza’s Hamas rulers on Tuesday said they have reached a long-awaited ceasefire with Israel meant to end months of Palestinian assaults on Israeli border towns and bruising Israeli retaliation.

The announcement came shortly after Egypt, which has been trying to broker the truce for months, said the cease-fire would go into effect on Thursday. Israel refused to confirm a deal, but said a “new reality” would take hold if Palestinian attacks end. In a last-minute jolt, Israeli aircraft attacked three targets in the southern Gaza Strip. One of the airstrikes destroyed a car, killing five militants from a group involved in the capture of an Israeli soldier two years ago. A large crowd gathered around the car’s smouldering remains, and a puddle of blood was visible on the asphalt.

Hamas officials accused Israel of trying to undermine the truce, but said they would not let the violence derail the Egyptian efforts.

“We are going to commit ourselves to the start time that Egypt is going to declare regarding the calm,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. However, the group’s television station said the movement would respond to “any Zionist aggression,” underscoring the delicate situation.

Egypt’s powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, has been meeting separately with Israeli and Hamas officials for months in hopes of brokering a truce.