World welcomes Gaza truce, urges sides to fulfill obligations
Syrian FM: We back Gaza truce, hope Israel fulfills commitments; MK Livnat: Truce capitulates to terrorists.
The Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal reached Wednesday between Israel and Hamas was welcomed by the international world and accompanied with calls for both sides to fulfill their obligations.
The United States said it hoped the truce, which goes into effect at 6 A.M. on Thursday, would put an end to Qassam rocket fire as well as fuel peace talks between Israel the Palestinian Authority.
"We hope this means no more rockets will be fired by Hamas at innocent Israelis as well as lead to a better atmosphere for talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority," White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband praised the deal and commended Egypt on its mediation efforts.
"Reports of a ceasefire in Gaza are very welcome for a region that has seen so much conflict in recent months. The Egyptians have done well to make this happen," Milivand said.
"We hope that the militant groups now fulfill their commitment to stop firing rockets into Israel, and that Israel will ease restrictions on Gaza as it has pledged, ensuring that important humanitarian aid and supplies can get through," added.
"The UK remains committed to helping Israel and the Palestinian Authority move towards agreement on a just and lasting peace," he added.
The European Union also welcomed the deal and said it remained committed to seeing a peace settlement between Israel and the Palestinians by the end of 2008, a target date set last year at a U.S.-sponsored regional summit in Annapolis, Maryland.
"I welcome the news of the agreement between Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian factions brokered by Egypt on a mutual ceasefire in the Gaza Strip," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the EU commissioner in charge of the European Union's external relations.
Ferrero-Waldner thanked Egypt for facilitating the agreement, noting that the people of Gaza and southern Israel had suffered too long.
"Complete cessation of hostilities will no doubt create an environment which is more supportive of the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The EU remains committed to supporting a political agreement by the end of 2008," the commissioner added.
The EU is the biggest donor to the Palestinian territories.
Syrian FM: We back Gaza truce, hope Israel fulfills commitments
Damascus on Wednesday also declared its support for the Egyptian-brokered truce. Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said his country supported the lifting of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, one of the stipulations of the cease-fire agreement.
Moallem expressed the hope that Israel would fulfill its part of the truce, which is meant to take effect on Thursday at 6 A.M.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad echoed both Moallem's support and concerns. "Everybody knows the situation in Gaza, where 1.5 million people living there are absolutely miserable," he said. "Our hope is that [the ceasefire] would lead to an easing of those difficult conditions."
Likud MK Limor Livnat on Wednesday, however, called the ceasefire agreement "capitulation to terrorism," adding that it marked a tremendous achievement for Hamas in that it grants the organization legitimacy and international standing that Israel has worked hard to deny it to this point.
Speaking to Israel Radio, Livnat said Hamas would continue to enhance the "terrorist infrastructure", and that the government failed in extracting a promise from the organization to refrain from doing so.
U.S. prior to truce: Hamas still a terrorist group
The Bush administration reacted skeptically on Tuesday to news of the Egypt-brokered ceasefire deal, a day before it was officially declared.
"We'll see first of all whether there is actually an agreement," State Department spokesman Tom Casey said.
"Even if this is a true report, I think unfortunately it hardly takes Hamas out of the terrorism business," he said.
White House spokesman Tony Fratto said he had no comment on reports of an Israel-Hamas truce, saying there had not been anything official. "We really want to see details of any kind of agreement and what the views are of people in the region before we comment on it," he said.
At the State Department, Casey said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had spoken previously "about the importance of establishing calm, and the appreciation we have for Egypt's efforts to facilitate peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians in a general way."
Casey brushed aside suggestions that Washington was losing its importance as a player in peace efforts in the Middle East. "I think the U.S. role in this has been important, I think it is a continuing one," he said.