Israel set to declare Gaza truce
An Israeli official said the Security Cabinet will vote Saturday night on whether to accept an Egyptian proposal for a truce to end the fighting in Gaza. According to the AP, the senior government official said a decision to approve the truce would start a phased process in which Israel stops fighting and gauges the reaction from Hamas. The official added that under this process, Israel would resume its offensive if the Palestinians continue to fire rockets at Israel.
The security Cabinet has 12 members. The Israeli media expected Friday that the ministers will back the truce proposal as the "trio" - Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni are all behind this move.
In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Livni signed an agreement Friday intended to assure Israel that Hamas will not be able to rearm if it agrees to a cease-fire in Gaza. At the signing ceremony, Livni described the deal as "a vital complement for a cessation of hostility" in the region.
Rice said she hoped European countries would work out similar bilateral agreements with Israel to "bring into being a durable cease-fire, a cease-fire that can actually hold." "As you know, there are a number of conditions that need to be obtained if a cease-fire is to be durable. ... And among them is to do something about the weapons smuggling and the potential for resupply of Hamas from other places, including from Iran," she added.
Meanwhile, Mauritania and Qatar on Friday announced they are suspending political and economic contacts with Israel over the fighting in Gaza. Mauritania has full diplomatic relations with Israel, while Qatar has a trade office and lower-level political ties.