Israeli troops to remain in Gaza for now: army

JERUSALEM, Jan 20, 2009 (AFP) - Israel is not talking about totally withdrawing its troops from Gaza for the moment, the army said on Tuesday, hours before the inauguration of US president-elect Barack Obama.

Asked about reports that ground forces would leave Gaza before Obama is sworn in later on Tuesday, army spokeswoman Avital Liebovich said: "For the moment, no one is talking about the total withdrawal of troops."

A senior official in the defence ministry added: "This will depend on the realities on the ground."

"We are progressively reducing the number of troops in the Gaza Strip, but we are keeping our units outside of the territory on alert in order to quickly react to any situation," he said, requesting anonymity.

Israel halted its 22-day offensive on Hamas in Gaza with a ceasefire early on Sunday. The war killed more than 1,300 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,300 others, according to Gaza medics. Three Israeli civilians and 10 soldiers died.

Source: AFP

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