Israeli Forces Redeploy in Gaza

Ad Feedback - GAZA STRIP - A report by The Associated Press that the Israeli army has begun withdrawing its troops from the Gaza Strip was not confirmed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), the Prime Minister's Office said.

"The IDF is redeploying forces in accordance with the situation on the ground," spokesman Mark Regev told CBN News. "The IDF did not confirm troop withdrawal," he said.

Following the Olmert government's declaration of a unilateral cease-fire Saturday night, which went into effect at 2:00 a.m. Sunday, Hamas announced its own "immediate cease-fire" Sunday afternoon.

On Syrian television, exiled Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal said they would halt all military activity and give Israel one week to pull its troops out of the Gaza Strip.

Both Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel had achieved its objectives during the three-week offensive.

"After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are very close to reaching the goals and securing them through diplomatic agreements," Barak said.

Hamas also declared victory.

"Israel failed in the war, did not achieve even one of its objects and fled from the Strip," Hamas legislator Mushir al-Masri said.

"The age of quick, decisive wars, such as Israelis like, has disappeared," he said.

"The resistance pushed back the attack and the enemy is forced to deal with continued rocket fire, continued threat from Hamas and no change regarding the issue of [kidnapped IDF Corporal Gilad] Shalit," he said.

Meanwhile, at Sunday morning's Cabinet meeting, Olmert said Israel reserved the right to respond to what he termed an extremely "fragile" cease-fire arrangement.

"The decision leaves Israel with the freedom to respond and resume firing if our enemies - the various terror organizations in the Gaza Strip - continue their attacks," Olmert said.

About six hours after the cease-fire went into effect, Hamas gunmen fired mortar shells on Israeli troops near Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.

After determining the source of the fire, an IAF helicopter successfully targeted the gunmen.

By midday Sunday, Palestinians fired more than 15 rockets and mortar shells on southern Israel, hitting Sderot, Kiryat Gat and western Negev moshavim and kibbutzim - farming communities.

In the early afternoon, Grad missiles hit the coastal cities of Ashdod and Ashkelon. A man and a woman were injured when a missile exploded in their yard.

A missile hit a building in Ashkelon, sending one woman into shock.

Hamas gave Israel one week to withdraw its troops. UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon also called for an immediate withdrawal of all Israeli forces.

But Olmert said withdrawal depended on a cessation of rocket fire.

"If Hamas entirely ends its rocket fire on Israel, Israel will consider an IDF withdrawal from the Gaza Strip," Olmert said.

"We can't talk about a timetable for withdrawal until we know the cease-fire is holding," spokesman Mark Regev told reporters.

"If there is a danger Hamas is going to deliberately torpedo the cease-fire and we will have to reinitiate offensive actions against Hamas, for that reason we have to be reticent about withdrawing our forces," he said.

Hamas also called for an immediate opening of all border crossings, including the Rafah crossing with the Egyptian Sinai, the area where most of the smuggling tunnels have been built.

"You can't have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage," Regev said.

On Sunday afternoon, Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu said that while the IDF had done a remarkable job, dealing Hamas some "very hard blows on the head," the operation ended prematurely.

"Hamas still controls Gaza, and it will continue to smuggle new missiles in through the Philadelphi Corridor [the narrow strip of land separating Gaza from the Egyptian Sinai]," Netanyahu said.

"I believe that in the face of Hamas terror and its Iranian backing, we must show no weakness, and we must show a resolute, iron fist until the enemy is vanquished," he said.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, YNet news, Haaretz, israel national news 

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CBN News
Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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