Israel said Saturday it would not agree to a longer term ceasefire with Hamas unless an Israeli soldier held in Gaza Strip was released. Israel had tied a full opening of its border crossings with the Strip, a Hamas condition for a truce, with the release of Gilad Shalit, held captive since 2006.
"The prime minister's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said in a statement, cited by Reuters.
Hamas wants Israel to free hundreds of Palestinians held in its jails in exchange for Shalit. It wants talks on a prisoner swap deal and the opening of Gaza's crossings to take place after a cease-fire announcement.
Olmert's office said any decision on the cease-fire talks would be made while taking into account "the new political circumstances." Israeli media said Olmert was hinting he would consult hawkish Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu, favoured to form the next government.