As part of the cease-fire announced this morning (Sunday, 26 November 2006), Israel has begun withdrawing all of its forces from the Gaza Strip.

This decision was taken in an effort on Israel’s part both to bring about a calming of the situation and as a signal of Israel’s readiness to contribute to an improvement in the security and political condition of the region.

Israel is interested in maintaining a cease-fire as a means to end the violence and to enable progress in the political negotiations. In doing so, Israel is knowingly undertaking the risk that the terrorist organizations will exploit the cease-fire to rearm and to rebuild their infrastructure.

Despite the fact that the cease-fire came into effect at 06:00 this morning, five Kassam rockets were fired after that hour from the Gaza Strip at Sderot and communities in the Western Negev. It must be pointed out that if the Palestinians do not observe the cease-fire completely, Israel will have no choice but to respond.

It does not matter which organization carries out the firing — the obligation to observe the cease-fire absolutely applies to the Palestinian Authority, which bears the responsibility to enforce it without exception.

It should also be recalled that Israel left the Gaza Strip last year with no intention of returning, but was forced to act there in order to prevent acts of terrorism. Accordingly, Israel will refrain from operating in the Gaza Strip as long as all acts of terrorism and rearming there cease. Israel will continue to monitor events in the Gaza Strip and will respond in accordance with developments.