Ha­mas poised to

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - BY AN­SHEL PF­EF­FER

IS­RAEL IS poised to agree to an Egyp­tian-bro­kered cease­fire deal with Ha­mas, de­spite the deal not in­clud­ing any as­sur­ances re­gard­ing the re­lease of cap­tured sol­der Gi­lad Shalit and an end to arms smug­gling over the Egyp­tian border.

The deal will put on hold the plans to launch a large-scale raid on the Gaza Strip. Un­der the agree­ment reached by Egyp­tian Intelligence Min­is­ter Omar Suleiman, who over the last two weeks met Pales­tinian rep­re­sen­ta­tives and the Is­raeli lead­er­ship, Ha­mas, Is­lamic Ji­had and Fatah will all cease fir­ing rock­ets into Is­rael, while the IDF will in turn re­frain from at­tacks on the Gaza Strip.

Is­rael has re­fused Ha­mas de­mands to link IDF op­er­a­tions in the West Bank to quiet in Gaza. Is­rael has given in on two main de­mands: that the deal in­clude an as­sur­ance that Cor­po­ral Gi­lad Shalit, cap­tured in a cross-border raid al­most two years ago, would be re­leased; and that Ha­mas would not use the cease­fire to con­tinue smug­gling arms through the Egyp­tian border and build up its mil­i­tary ca­pa­bil­i­ties.

There is not ex­pected to be a for­mal sign­ing of the cease­fire, which Ha­mas is terming a tahadiya, a pro­vi­sional ces­sa­tion of vi­o­lence, but Is­rael has agreed that if calm is main­tained, the eco­nomic block­ade of the Strip will grad­u­ally be eased.

Is­rael, though, is ex­pected to hold up the open­ing of the Rafah Cross­ing be­tween Gaza and Egypt un­til sig­nif­i­cant progress is reached over the re- lease of Cor­po­ral Shalit, the sub­ject of a con­tentious pris­oner-ex­change.

Is­rael was widely ex­pected to launch a large-scale mil­i­tary at­tack on the Strip, fol­low­ing the In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tions and the visit by US Pres­i­dent Ge­orge Bush last week, but failed to gain Amer­i­can or Euro­pean ap­proval for such an op­er­a­tion, de­spite re­peated fir­ing from Gaza on Is­raeli ter­ri­tory.

The Is­raeli gov­ern­ment be­lieves that if the Pales­tinian or­gan­i­sa­tions break the cease­fire, it will have in­ter­na­tional jus­ti­fi­ca­tion then to at­tack. How­ever Deputy Prime Min­is­ter Haim Ra­mon ac­cused Prime Min­is­ter Ehud Olmert, Defence Min­is­ter Ehud Barak and For­eign Min­is­ter Tzipi Livni for break­ing Is­rael’s rule and ne­go­ti­at­ing with Ha­mas.

He said that Is­rael could not agree to hav­ing a ter­ror state on its south­ern border and should step up its mil­i­tary of­fen­sive.

Qas­sam-fir­ing at Is­rael con­tin­ued this week in­ter­mit­tently; no Is­raelis have been wounded since a Grad mis­sile hit an Ashkelon shop­ping cen­tre last week, wound­ing 24 civil­ians. Two Ha­mas mem­bers and two civil­ians — in­clud­ing a 13-year-old boy — were killed in Is­rael Air Force at­tacks on Tues­day.

PHOTO: AP

Ha­mas leader Is­mail Haniyeh in his Gaza City of­fice

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