Sweden welcomes Gaza ceasefire

The Swedish government has welcomed Israel's declaration of a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory of Gaza.

Swedish prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt called on both sides to respect the ceasefire.

“Israel must without delay withdraw its military forces from Gaza and open the borders. Hamas must respect the ceasefire,” he said in a written press statement released on Saturday evening.

Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire on Sunday, ending three weeks of conflict in the Palestinian territory which have claimed 1,230 lives.

Israel reserved the right however to respond to Hamas attacks, which continued on Sunday. Israel claimed that at least five rockets had been fired into Israeli territory on Sunday morning.

Anders Hellner at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs (UI) in Stockholm called the Israeli announcement “a clever move”, according to a report in Dagens Nyheter.

Hellner argued that Israel had seized an opportunity to gain the initiative in the court of public opinion and established its intent to seek a peaceful solution. Hellner argued that the burden of responsibility for the conflict could now shift onto Hamas.

Hamas has responded to the ceasefire declaration by saying that it would not stop its resistance until its demands are met.

Hamas is demanding that Israel withdraw its troops and open border posts.

“Hamas could certainly agree to a ceasefire if they get through their demands for the borders to open. But Israel has not met this demand, so that Hamas continues is no surprise,” Hellner said.

A slew of foreign governments released statements welcoming the interruption in hostilities on Sunday and the Swedish prime minister underlined the importance of the international community in Gaza’s future.

“The people of Gaza need support from the world’s nations to rebuild,” Reinfeldt said.