Israel declares ceasefire in Gaza
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announces the ceasefire
Israel is to halt its three-week military offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has said.
He said Israel had achieved its aims and the unilateral ceasefire would start at 0200 (2400 GMT). But he said troops would remain in Gaza for now.
A Hamas spokesman said it would not accept one Israeli soldier in Gaza.
Nearly 1,200 Palestinians have been killed since the violence began on 27 December. Thirteen Israelis have died.
The US has welcomed the ceasefire, saying it “expects that all parties will cease attacks and hostile actions immediately”.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon expressed relief, saying the ceasefire should be “the first step leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza”.
The Israeli prime minister’s announcement came in a televised address following a late-night cabinet meeting.
We feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas
Israeli prime minister
Excerpts: Olmert declares ceasefire
Israel’s “goals have been achieved, and even more”, Mr Olmert said.
Hamas was badly damaged both militarily and in terms of government infrastructure; rocket factories and dozens of smuggling tunnels had been destroyed, he said.
But the success of the ceasefire depended on Hamas, he said.
Troops would remain in Gaza for the time being and if Hamas held fire, the military would “consider pulling out of Gaza at a time that befits us”.
If militant rocket fire into Israel continued, Israel would respond with force, the Israeli leader added.
A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, condemned the move. Hamas could not “accept the presence of a single [Israeli] soldier in Gaza”, he said.