Israel sets conditions for truce with Hamas
Israel will not agree to an Egyptian proposal for a calm with the Gaza Strip unless it includes the issue of arms smuggling and the release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Monday. According to the AP, Olmert told visiting Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman during their meeting in Jerusalem that the proposal could not be adopted in its current form.
According to Olmert, the issue of arms smuggling in particular will distinguish between a temporary truce and sustainable calm. The Israeli leader asked Suleiman to pass along this message to Hamas officials.
Suleiman arrived in Tel Aviv early Monday to present Cairo's proposal for the cease-fire. He met first with Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak in Tel Aviv and then later with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Jerusalem.
After their meeting, Barak said that Israel would not be able to avoid a wide military operation in the Gaza Strip, unless Palestinian gunmen cease firing rockets on Israelis. "Israel will have to take broader action in the Gaza Strip if the firing of Qassam rockets and mortar bombs does not stop," he told Suleiman, according to a statement from the defense bureau.
Barak also told Suleiman that the truce deal should include the release of Shalit, who has been held captive in the Gaza Strip since June 2006. He also emphasized that Israel demands all weapons smuggling from Egypt to Gaza be stopped.
Suleiman said following his talks with Barak that he had "high expectations" that a cease-fire deal could be reached between Israel and Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip. Asked by reporters about his expectations, Suleiman held up his thumb in a gesture of optimism and replied in English: "High expectations." Barak said he hoped Suleiman's visit would "produce productive discussions."
In the Gaza Strip, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said he wished Suleiman success and urged Israel to "respond positively to the Egyptian efforts and to lift the siege and open the (border) crossings."