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Israel Suspends Offensive Against Palestinian Militants

Israel has suspended a week-long military offensive in the Gaza Strip and West Bank. Israel says the next step is for the Palestinian Authority to disarm militant groups.

Israel ended a week of punishing air strikes against Islamic militants in Gaza, and arrest raids in the West Bank. The Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza that sparked the raids stopped, and Israel says the goal of the offensive was achieved.

The tough military response shows that Israel has set out new rules of deterrence since it pulled out of Gaza three-weeks ago.

"If there is terrorist activity from Gaza into Israel, the Israeli public will demand of the Israeli government, that we defend the citizens of Israel," government spokesman Mark Regev told VOA.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the end of the offensive, but Israel says that is not enough. Mr. Regev said militant groups must be disarmed, as demanded by the internationally-backed "Roadmap" peace plan.

"We have fully pulled out of the Gaza Strip, the Gaza Strip today is totally under Palestinian control. We expect the Palestinian Authority and the Palestinian leadership now to deal effectively with the terrorists," he said.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Nabil Abu Redeineh says his government is determined to end armed chaos.

"This is a national Palestinian target and we hope that with the end of occupation there will not be any weapons. The only weapons is the weapons of the Authority," said Mr. Redeineh.

With the end of the offensive, both sides are taking steps to get the peace process back on track. Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas called Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and they agreed to hold a summit in the near future.

Mr. Abbas conveyed best wishes for the Jewish New Year, and Mr. Sharon sent greetings for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Both holidays begin this week.