Israel confirms ceasefire with Hamas
Israel overnight accepted an Egyptian-proposed ceasefire with Hamas that is to take effect at 6 am (0300 GMT) Thursday, Israel Radio reported.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defence Minister Ehud Barak endorsed the ceasefire after sending their senior truce negotiator, retired general Amos Gilad, to Egypt overnight to hear details and finalize the deal, Israel Radio said.
Egypt's official MENA news agency announced the truce Tuesday evening. Hamas, the radical Islamic movement ruling the Gaza Strip, confirmed it shortly afterward in a news conference called by its de-facto foreign minister, Mahmoud al-Zahar.
But Israel had said late Tuesday that the announcement was "premature" and that the deal was not final until it was sealed by its envoy to Egypt, reported dpa.
"Even if we should reach one, it is unclear how long it would last," Barak said near Tel Aviv while adding that Israel had an obligation to give it a chance. He also said, however, that the Israeli army must be prepared "for all developments."
Israeli opposition leaders were quick to criticize the truce. Lawmaker Limor Livnat of the hardline Likud party said the deal meant Israel itself was dealing with Hamas, a terrorist organization.
"Here there is tremendous damage in the long term," she told Israel Radio Wednesday. Hamas, she charged, would only use the truce to increase its military strength.