The Herald

Hamas triumphs as Israeli troops quit Gaza

- NIDAL AL MUGHRABI GAZA

HAMAS declared victory after Israeli troops pulled out of the Gaza Strip yesterday following a US appeal to end days of fighting that killed more than 100 Palestinia­ns.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that despite halting the five-day operation, in which two Israeli soldiers were killed, Israel would take more action in the Gaza Strip until crossborde­r rocket fire was cut.

The withdrawal came in time for today’s visit by US Secretary of State Condoleezz­a Rice, a driving force behind peace talks between Israel and the Palestinia­n Authority that have shown little progress.

“The blood of Gaza’s children has achieved victory and occupation will be removed,” Hamas’s Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a statement.

Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from Palestinia­n President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah faction in June, vowed to continue firing rockets into Israel. It launched one into the southern city of Ashkelon shortly after the troops withdrew, wounding one person.

“We are not willing to show tolerance, period. We will respond,” Olmert said in broadcast remarks.

A senior official said, however, there would be a “twoday interval” for Rice’s visit.

Israel had been under pressure from Washington to halt the violence after Abbas suspended US-backed peace talks in protest at the bloodshed.

The Palestinia­n Health Ministry said 116 Palestinia­ns were killed in the Gaza offen- sive. About half of them were civilians, medics say.

Many casualties came when Israeli missiles, fired by helicopter­s, jets and unmanned drones, hit buildings the army said were used by militants.

Senior Palestinia­n negotiator Saeb Erekat said the talks, which Washington hopes can result in a statehood deal this year, would remain frozen for now.–Reuters

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