Gaza Palestinian factions conditionally agree to hold fire

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Representatives of Palestinian terrorist groups agreed conditionally to a cease-fire with Israel that included a stipulation that they had the right to respond to Israeli aggression.

At a meeting Monday evening in the Gaza Strip called by Hamas, the groups agreed to a cease-fire on the condition that there is an end to "Israeli aggression" and that they have a right to respond to the aggression.

Following the announcement of the agreement, two rockets were fired at Sderot from Gaza.

The meeting and announcement came after a report in the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot that the United States had given Israel a green light to move ground troops into Gaza in response to the barrage of rocket fire on southern Israel in the past three days.

Earlier Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told ambassadors to Israel that his country will "take whatever action is necessary to put a stop" to the rocket fire. Netanyahu met Monday in Ashkelon with some 100 foreign envoys to talk about Israel’s response to the escalation of attacks on Israel.

"I don’t know of any of your governments who could accept such a thing," Netanyahu said at the meeting. "I don’t know of any of the citizens of your cities who could find that acceptable and something that could proceed on a normal basis. I think the whole world understands that this is not acceptable.

"So we’re going to fight for the rights of our people to defend themselves. We’ll take whatever action is necessary to put a stop to this."

Israel’s foreign missions reportedly were instructed to tell their host governments that Israel has lost patience with the situation on the Gaza border and could take some action, Israel Radio reported. As many as 150 rockets have been fired from Gaza at southern Israel since Saturday, according to reports.

"The prime minister is interested in preparing international public opinion for an Israeli military operation in Gaza," Haaretz reported a source in the Prime Minister’s Office as saying.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly met Monday with Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Benny Gantz and the commander of the IDF’s Southern Command, Tal Russo, to discuss and possibly change the IDF’s policy regarding rocket fire from the Gaza Strip. Ynet reported that senior intelligence officials also attended the meeting.

Israeli politicians spoke out Monday on the possibility of a heightened Israeli response to the Gaza provocation, including a ground operation.

Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich told Army Radio that such an operation should not occur on the eve of national elections, which are set for Jan. 22.

Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz, head of the Kadima Party, called for the targeted killing of terrorist leaders. Mofaz is a former IDF chief of staff.

Home Front Defense Minister Avi Dichter, who lives in Ashkelon, called for a ground invasion of Gaza, saying that terror cannot be destroyed just by air power.
 

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