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Hamas officials resume work in shattered Gaza


CAIRO/ROME, January 21 (RIA Novosti) - Hamas officials in Gaza were ordered to return to work on Wednesday after the end of a three-week Israeli military operation that left almost 1,300 dead in the enclave, a spokesman for the movement said.

"The government calls for all workers to resume work on Wednesday morning," the spokesman said.

He also stated that Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya's government was continuing work even though "almost all of the government offices were destroyed during the [Israeli] aggression."

Italy's ANSA news agency reported on Wednesday that Egypt planned to organize an international conference on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. The plans were announced at a joint press conference in Cairo by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, who has just returned from a visit to Israel.

Frattini stated that participants at the conference would include UN, European Union, and World Bank representatives.

Norway, through which donors make contributions to the Palestinians, and Italy, currently chairing the G8, are also expected to attend. Frattini also said that "Italy plans to bring other G8 countries" to the conference.

Israel has now pulled all of its troops out of Gaza, the Israeli army's press service said on Wednesday. An Israeli military statement said that the last Israeli Defense Forces troops had left the Gaza Strip before dawn. However, Israel soldiers remain deployed near the border with Gaza. Israel launched an attack on the Gaza Strip on December 27, targeting Hamas infrastructure in a bid to put an end to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants on Israeli border towns. The military operation left over 1,284 Palestinians dead, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Up to 50,000 people have also been left homeless in the enclave of 1.5 million.

Nine Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting. Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire at 2 a.m. local time (00:00 GMT) on Sunday saying it had achieved all its objectives. Several hours after Israel's announcement, Hamas also declared an immediate ceasefire, adding that it was giving Israel a week to withdraw its troops. Both sides have already accused each other of ceasefire violations. Israel has reported mortar shelling of its border territories, while Hamas said two farmers had been killed by Israeli troops.

Hamas has controlled the Gaza Strip since the summer of 2007, when it seized control of the enclave following a series of clashes with pro-presidential Fatah.

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