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Excerpts: Olmert declares ceasefire

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has announced a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, but not a military withdrawal, from 0000 GMT on 18 January. Excerpts from his speech to Israeli citizens follow.

TARGETS MET

Citizens of Israel, exactly three weeks ago... we... detailed the considerations and goals which guided us in launching a military operation in the Gaza Strip. Today, we face you again and can say that the conditions have been created so that our targets, as defined when we launched the operation, have been fully achieved, and more so.

Hamas was badly stricken, both in terms of its military capabilities and in the infrastructure of its regime. Its leaders are in hiding. Many of its members have been killed. The factories in which its missiles were manufactured have been destroyed. The smuggling routes, through dozens of tunnels, have been bombed. Hamas's capabilities for conveying weapons within the Gaza Strip have been damaged... The areas from which most of the missiles were launched are under the control of IDF [Israeli] forces.

INTERNATIONAL SUPPORT

Today, and in large part due to the success of the military operation, the entire international community is ready to mobilise in order to achieve maximum stability, and knows that, for this to occur, the process of Hamas's strengthening must stop... We formulated understandings with the Egyptian government with regard to a number of central issues, the realisation of which will bring about a significant reduction in weapons smuggling from Iran and Syria to the Gaza Strip. On Friday, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the American government, in the framework of which the United States will mobilise to take the necessary steps, together with the other members of the international community, to prevent weapons smuggling by terrorists in Gaza.

I have no doubt that were it not for the determined and successful military action, we would not have reached diplomatic understandings, which together create a full picture of impressive accomplishment.

JUST OFFENSIVE

The government decided to launch the operation in Gaza only after long thought and great consideration, and only after all attempts through other means to stop the firing and other acts of terror by Hamas failed. Israel, which withdrew from the Gaza Strip to the last millimetre at the end of 2005 - with no intention of returning - found itself under a barrage of missiles. Hamas violently took control of the Gaza Strip and began attacking the communities in the South more intensely...

CONCERN FOR CIVILIANS

During the operation, the State of Israel demonstrated great sensitivity in exercising its force in order to avoid, as much as possible, harming the civilian population not involved in terror. In cases where there was any doubt that striking at terrorists would lead to harming an innocent civilian population - we abstained from acting...

During the operation, we made widespread and concerted efforts to see to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian population. We allowed for the transfer of equipment, food and medicine to prevent a humanitarian crisis... In the next few days, we will be able to provide an appropriate and comprehensive answer to the civilian population's needs in the Gaza Strip.

I wish to express my great appreciation to the international organisations which acted and continue to act tirelessly to assist us in providing the Palestinian population with appropriate living conditions. Israel will continue to co-operate with them...

CEASEFIRE TERMS

Beginning at 0200 [0000 GMT], Israel will cease its actions against the terrorist organisations in the Gaza Strip and will remain deployed in the Gaza Strip and its environs... If our enemies decide that the blows they have already suffered are not enough and they wish to continue fighting, Israel will be ready for that scenario and will feel free to continue responding with force.

APPEAL TO GAZANS

I also wish to say something to the people of Gaza: even before the military operation began, and during it, I appealed to you. We do not hate you. We did not want, and do not want, to harm you. We wanted to defend our children, their parents, their families. We feel the pain of every Palestinian child and family member who fell victim to the cruel reality created by Hamas which transformed you into victims.

Your suffering is terrible. Your cries of pain touch each of our hearts. On behalf of the Government of Israel, I wish to convey my regret for the harming of uninvolved civilians, for the pain we caused them, for the suffering they and their families suffered as a result of the intolerable situation created by Hamas.



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