Tue, Jan 20, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Israel, Egypt inked deal on arms flow to Gaza: official

UNEASY QUIET The tenuous ceasefire held yesterday. No air strikes, fighting or rockets were reported for the first time since Israel’s assault began on Dec. 27

AFP , GAZA CITY, GAZA STRIP AND JERUSALEM

Israel and Egypt penned a deal on steps to stem arms smuggling into Gaza ahead of the Jewish state’s ceasefire to its war, a senior Israeli official said yesterday.

“Israel and Egypt have reached written understandings on security arrangements to prevent arms smuggling along the Gaza-Egypt border and deeper inside the Sinai Peninsula,” the senior government official said.

The agreement was hammered out following intensive contacts between top Israeli Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad and Egyptian Minister without Portfolio and intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who met twice in Cairo during the Gaza operation, he said.

The Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Egypt had agreed on “specific measures” to fight arms smuggling, but he declined to elaborate.

Israel had said that it stopped its deadly 22-day offensive on Hamas on Sunday after it secured guarantees on weapon smuggling from Egypt and the US.

But while Israel and Washington publicly signed an agreement on preventing the arms smuggling, Israeli and Egyptian officials have so far declined to say whether the two states had inked any deal.

The tenuous ceasefire held yesterday in Gaza, where Palestinians dug out from the rubble and Hamas put on a show of defiance, vowing to fight on after the Jewish state’s deadliest war on the strip.

No air strikes, rockets or fighting were reported by either side for the first time since Israel’s massive assault was launched on Dec. 27.

The guns had fallen silent around Gaza after Israel announced its unilateral ceasefire from Sunday and Hamas and other militant groups called a week-long truce of their own.

On the ground, the lull saw early efforts at a return to some sort of daily life amid the desolation, reporters said.

Some stores raised their metal shutters and banks opened doors. Hamas police reappeared on the streets and directed traffic at intersections.

Many people were scavenging through rubble to salvage what they could — clothes, a television, books, tins of food.

Najette Manah, three small children in tow, clutched a box of rice that she found amid the debris of what was her home.

“We don’t have homes anymore. I don’t have anything anymore,” she said.

However, Hamas’ armed wing spat defiance at a televised media conference, saying it would rearm and demanding the Jewish state withdraw its forces from the Palestinian enclave by Sunday or face more rocket attacks.

Abu Obeida, masked spokesman for the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, echoed his leader’s proclamation that the 22-day operation was a “divine victory” for Hamas.

The movement lost only 48 fighters, the spokesman said, after Israel reported killing more than 500 Hamas members during Operation Cast Lead. He also claimed Israel lost “at least 80 soldiers” in the fighting.

Israeli listed 10 soldiers killed.

Gaza medics said more than 1,300 Palestinians have died.

Abu Obeida underlined that Hamas’ own ceasefire would last only a week unless Israel fully withdrew troops from Gaza.

“We have given the Zionist enemy one week to pull out of the Gaza Strip, failing which we will pursue the resistance,” he said.

“Our arsenal of rockets has not been affected and we continued to fire them during the war without interruption. We are still able to launch them and, thanks be to God, our rockets will strike other targets,” in Israel.

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