Israeli troops begin leaving Gaza


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel began removing some troops from Gaza a few hours after Hamas announced its own cease-fire and gave Israel a week to pull out its troops.

The Hamas cease-fire announcement was made Sunday afternoon, according to reports, and came after at least 17 rockets launched from Gaza landed in Israel Sunday, wounding at least one Israeli in Ashdod. A building was also damaged by rocket shrapnel in Ashkelon.

Israel announced a unilateral cease-fire in Gaza late Saturday night, but said its troops would remain in the strip for the time being, prepared to retaliate against more Hamas rocket and gunman attacks. It will also keep border crossings closed except to humanitarian aid.

The Hamas cease-fire announcement, which was not coordinated with Israel, was made by Khaled Meshaal, Hamas leader in exile in Damascus, on Syrian television. Conditions of the cease-fire, according to Meshaal, include Israel pulling its troops out of Gaza within a week, ending its blockade on the strip and opening the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

About six hours after Israel’s unilateral cease-fire went into effect Sunday, Palestinian gunmen fired at Israel Defense Forces soldiers in northern Gaza. The troops returned fire in a defensive measure.

Schools in southern communities hardest hit by the rockets remained closed Sunday, and residents were warned that there will likely be more rocket fire.

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