Hamas, Israel Declare Separate Cease-Fires A day after Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire, Hamas also called for one, insisting that Israel withdraw its troops from Gaza within the next week.
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Hamas, Israel Declare Separate Cease-Fires

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Hamas, Israel Declare Separate Cease-Fires

Hamas, Israel Declare Separate Cease-Fires

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LIANE HANSEN, Host:

This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen. There is not yet total peace in Gaza. But the fighting is way down. Palestinian militants fired into Israel today in defiance of Israel's declared cease-fire, and Israel attacked what it said were the rocket launchers. But there are indications Hamas is now agreeing to a temporary lull and has given Israel a week to pull its troops out. Last night, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Israelis in a nationally televised address that a unilateral cease-fire would begin in Gaza, but he said Israeli troops would remain in place for now. NPR's Anne Garrels joins us from Jerusalem. And Anne, where do the Israelis see this going from here?

ANNE GARRELS: Well, Israeli officials certainly say they expected some attacks that Hamas would want to be seen as having the last word on the ground, and they're monitoring events minute by minute. But they say if Hamas causes injuries of Israeli citizens, civilians, soldiers, Israel will react aggressively. Israel hopes that by declaring a cease-fire, it's got more international support if Hamas continues its resistance. The prime minister's spokesman said today, he hopes now the world will understand who is actually responsible.

HANSEN: Can you tell - I mean, how long do Israeli troops expect to stay in Gaza?

GARRELS: That's a very good question. Prime Minister Olmert was deliberately vague on this in an interview with NPR earlier today. Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres says troops could be there for days, perhaps weeks. He indicated much depends on what the international community does to help stop arms smuggling into Gaza through Egypt. While the U.S. has signed a memo of understanding with the Israelis that calls for a vague standard cooperation to prevent Hamas from rearming, Israel wants to firm up exactly what the U.S., NATO, and specifically Britain, France, and Germany will do. And then there's the issue of what Egypt will allow on its territory. So far, Egypt has said it will not accept foreign troops on its soil.

HANSEN: Hamas may be battered at this point, but is it possible that resistance to Israel will continue and maybe spread to the West Bank?

GARRELS: You know, that's a very real possibility. When I asked this very question of President Peres this morning, he insisted Hamas' days are numbered militarily and politically. Though Palestinians voted in large numbers for Hamas, he now believes Gazans look to negotiations with Israel. He said Israel can empower the Palestinian Authority, Hamas' rivals in the West Bank, by making peace with them. He said Israel has to do this. Whether that's indeed the case, possible, well that's the biggest question of all.

HANSEN: NPR's Anne Garrels reporting from Jerusalem. Anne, thank you very much.

GARRELS: Thank you.

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