The Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the care taker government welcomed on Wednesday the truce deal between Hamas, which controls Gaza, and Israel.

Fayyad made his comments during a speech in the opening of the Development of Small Projects conference being held today in the southern West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Israel has announced late on Tuesday that it accepted the truce deal with Hamas that was mediated by Egypt.

Fayyad welcomed the truce and said that it will relieve the residents of Gaza that have been living under the Israeli siege since June 2007.

The Egyptian-mediated ceasefire stipulates that Hamas will halt the fire of homemade shells into Israeli territory, in exchange for Israel lifting the 12 month-blockade and ceasing all military attacks against the Gaza Strip.

Israel set two further demands; the release of the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and ensuring an end to alleged “arms smuggling” through underground tunnels on the Egypt-Gaza border.

Hamas says that Shalit’s release will be secured only in a separate deal that involves the release of Palestinians that were kidnapped by the Israeli army.

The Israeli army holds 11,000 Palestinian Political detainees, the majority of which have not yet had charges against them.

Shalit was captured from an Israeli military base in the Gaza Strip in June 2006 by Palestinian resistance fighters. The democratically-elected Hamas movement took full control of Gaza in June 2007, amidst factional infighting with the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas Fatah party.