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Hamas Agrees to Ceasefire in Gaza


The Islamic militant group Hamas that rules the Gaza Strip has followed Israel's lead and agreed to a ceasefire. The announcement followed a fresh round of violence. At least 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis have been killed in the three-week conflict.

Sixteen hours after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, Hamas followed suit.

Speaking in Damascus, Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk announced that armed Palestinian groups would observe the truce, on condition that Israeli forces withdraw from Gaza in a week.

Earlier, Hamas had rejected Israel's cease-fire declaration because Israeli forces remained in Gaza. The group responded by firing more than 20 rockets at Israel. The Israeli air force, in turn, targeted rocket-launching sites.

Israel declared the truce Saturday, saying it had dealt a severe blow to Hamas and accomplished its goals. At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the ceasefire is fragile.

Mr. Olmert said the army will respond to any Palestinian attacks, and Israel will test the ceasefire as he put it, "minute by minute, and hour by hour."

Egypt is continuing efforts to hammer out a ceasefire agreement that will be acceptable to both sides. Israel is demanding a halt to Hamas rocket attacks and weapons smuggling from Egypt, and Hamas is demanding that Israel lift its crippling blockade on Gaza.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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