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Netanyahu: Israel agreed Gaza truce to focus on IS, al-Qaeda

Aug. 31, 2014 10:27 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 31, 2014 10:14 P.M.)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel agreed to a permanent truce in its 50-day Gaza war with Hamas in order to keep focused on the threat from regional militants, after Palestinians claimed the war had been a major defeat for Israel.

"We fought for 50 days and we could have fought for 500 days, but we are in a situation where the Islamic State is at the gates of Jordan, Al-Qaeda is in the Golan and Hezbollah is at the border with Lebanon," Netanyahu said in an address on public television.

He was referring to Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq -- both neighbors of Jordan -- Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front Syria rebels on the Israeli-occupied Golan and Lebanon's Shiite movement Hezbollah.

"We decided not to get bogged down in Gaza, and we could have, but we decided to limit our objective and restore calm to Israeli citizens," Netanyahu added.

His remarks come as the United States, Israel's chief ally, is calling for a global coalition to fight the militants who have set up an Islamic "caliphate" in areas they have overrun in Syria and Iraq.

US President Barack Obama has said he will send Secretary of State John Kerry to the Middle East to discuss the plan, which he said would involve military, diplomatic and regional efforts.

Calm returned to the Gaza Strip after a Tuesday ceasefire, a long-term truce ahead of further expected negotiations between Israel and a united Palestinian delegation on a long-term peace deal.

Palestinians viewed the ceasefire deal as a major victory, as Israel promised to ease an eight-year long siege, limit a "buffer zone" near the border inside Gaza, and expand the fishing zone off Gaza's coast.

Israel received none of its demands in return, the biggest of which was the demilitarization of Palestinian fighters in Gaza.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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