Is this really a “ceasefire”?
As a fragile truce in the Gaza Strip entered its ninth day, Israel said Monday that it will step down its military operations in the West Bank, although it will not expand the ceasefire.
Israel wants to avoid military actions that can be used as an “excuse” for carrying out suicide bombings, Deputy Defence Minister Ephraim Sneh said.
The Israel Defence Forces will nevertheless continue to foil attacks without concessions, he told Israel Radio.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s cabinet decided after lengthy deliberations late Sunday against expanding the truce to the West Bank, accepting recommendations by military officials who fear that stopping arrest raids there will lead to a new wave of suicide bombings in Israel.
But the cabinet, which consists of a dozen senior ministers, decided that arrests in the West Bank now need the authorization of more senior commanders, a decision they hoped would reduce tensions threatening to disrupt the fragile Gaza truce.
However, Israel continued its arrest raids in the West Bank Monday, detaining some 15 suspected militants overnight.
Palestinian militants have broken the truce on several occasions, launching a total of 15 rockets at southern Israel from northern Gaza since the truce began Sunday last week.
They cited as the reason Israel’s killing of a total of five Palestinians in military operations in the West Bank in the past eight days.
The latest fatality came Sunday, when Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian youth during protests in the northern West Bank city of Nablus, leading the ruling Palestinian Hamas movement to absent itself from a meeting with 12 other Palestinian factions to discuss the continuation of the truce.
Palestinian observers however said Hamas in fact decided to boycott the inter-Palestinian truce dialogue in order to pressure Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas into resuming talks with it on the formation of a unity government.
Â© 2006 DPA