Israel, Hamas Begin Gaza TruceBy VOA News
19 June 2008

Israeli soldier gestures to direct atank moving on top of military vehicle, on Israel Gaza border, 18 Jun 2008 A truce between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas took effect Thursday morning in the Gaza Strip, though leaders from both sides have expressed doubt that it will last.

The truce began at 6 a.m. local time and is to last for six months.

Just moments before the truce went into effect, medics say Israeli forces killed a Palestinian man in Gaza.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday he views the cease-fire as "fragile" and warned it could be "short-lived." He described Hamas militants as "bloodthirsty terrorists" who have not changed into seekers of peace.

Gaza's Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the truce could bring calm to southern Israel, which has endured years of Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks. But, he warned that if Israel violates the deal, his group is ready to resume attacks.

Mr. Olmert has ordered Israel's military to prepare for a possible offensive in Gaza if the cease-fire fails.

The truce agreement calls for Gaza militants to stop attacks on southern Israel and for Israel to stop military raids and air strikes in Gaza. Israel also agreed to allow more goods to enter Gaza through Israeli border crossings three days into the cease-fire.

In the final day before the truce, Gaza militants fired nearly 40 rockets and mortars into southern Israel, without causing serious damage. Israeli air strikes on Gaza wounded several Palestinian militants.

Israeli officials say the deal will advance negotiations for the release of an Israeli soldier seized by Hamas militants in a cross-border raid two years ago.

voa news