Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reiterated on Tuesday that the blockade of Gaza Strip will be lifted only after captive soldier Gilad Shalit is freed, a condition Hamas again rejected. "We want first to resolve the Shalit issue and then will look into the reopening of crossings and the rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip," Olmert said.
His demand was swiftly rejected by Hamas' exiled leader Khaled Meshaal, who again accused Israel of backtracking on the terms of a proposed long-term truce. "Israel is responsible for blocking Egypt's efforts to broker a truce by adding a new condition at the last minute," Meshaal said after Damascus talks with Arab League chief Amr Mussa.
"A truce can come about only in exchange for a lifting of the blockade and the reopening of the crossing points. It is unacceptable to combine the truce issue with the question of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit," Meshaal said, according to AFP.
Olmert also added he welcomed Cairo's efforts to stop weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip, "as this will make it possible to bring back calm to communities in southern Israel which are the target of incessant rocket fire."