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Israel, Palestinians agree to Gaza ceasefire

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday.

Aceasefire has been reached in the Gaza Strip, a spokeswoman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Saturday.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas telephoned Olmert late Saturday to tell him he had reached a deal with all Palestinian factions, who have agreedto stop firing rockets into Israel from the coastal strip, Olmert spokeswoman Miri Eisin said.

She said Abbas asked that Israel reciprocate by stopping all military operations in Gaza and withdrawing its forces, and Olmert agreed.

A spokesman for Abbas later confirmed the ceasefire, saying it would take effect at 6 a.m. local time on Sunday.

"There is a signed agreement between the president and Prime Minister [Ismail] Haniyeh and all the Palestinian factions to resort to the agreement of the factions in Cairo in 2005, including ceasing all the military activity from Gaza, starting from Sunday morning," Palestinian spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said, referring to a previous truce agreed upon in Egypt in February 2005.

"The Israeli prime minister has agreed and it is going to start tomorrow morning."

It's hoped the agreementwillend a five-month Israeli military offensive and the continual firing of rockets by Palestinian militants into the Jewish state.

Israel launched its offensive after Hamas-linked militants staged a cross-border raid in June and captured an Israeli soldier, whom they are still holding.

International criticism

Olmert pledged earlier this month to continue the offensive until Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza significantly decreased, despite international criticism about Palestinian civilian deathsduring the offensive.

Earlier Saturday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said his group was willing to give peace negotiations with Israel six months to reach an agreement for a Palestinian state in Gaza and on the West Bank of the Jordan River, but threatened a new uprising if the talks fail.

The ceasefireannouncement came after a day of violence in which two Hamas militants were killed by an Israeli airstrike, Agence France-Presse reporteda medical official in Gaza as saying.

Earlier Saturday,a 12-year-old Palestinian boy was shot in the head during an exchange between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian militants.

Palestinian militants alsofired rockets Saturday into Israel, residents said, while Israeli tank shells later wounded two people in north Gaza, hospital officials said.

The Israeli army said the shells were fired at rocket launchers.

With files from the Associated Press

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