Hamas says calm with Israel starts Thursday morning
Palestinian resistance groups in the Gaza Strip will back an Egyptian-brokered calm agreement with Israel set to take effect on Thursday morning, a Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said on Tuesday. According to Reuters, Zahar said the truce would come into effect on Thursday morning at 6 a.m. (0300 GMT) and the agreement would result in Israel easing a blockade of the Hamas-run territory in exchange for halting cross-border rocket attacks into Israel.
"We as Palestinian people, as Palestinian factions agreed upon a bilateral, immediate ceasefire between the Palestinian side and the Israeli side," Zahar told reporters in Gaza City. According to him, the ceasefire agreement was for a six-month period.
Zahar confirmed at the news conference that Egypt would invite envoys of Hamas, Fatah and the European Union to discuss arrangements for reopening the Rafah border crossing two weeks after the calm goes into effect.
However, in Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak cautioned that it was too early to declare that a calm had been achieved. "This evening, the possibility of reaching a calm is being examined. It is still early to declare it, and it is difficult to determine how long it will last," Barak said. He added that, "The test will be in its implementation, but nevertheless it is important to use the chances of a calm in order to return quiet to the Gaza-border communities, Ashkelon and Sderot, and to use the chances to renew negotiations for the release of (captured soldier) Gilad Shalit."