Israel gives Egyptian mediation on Gaza truce another chance

Israel Materials 11 June 2008 16:31 (UTC +04:00)

Israel said Wednesday it will give Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce in the Gaza Strip another chance, reported dpa.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's inner security cabinet, decided after lengthy consultations to put off a large-scale military invasion of Gaza to end near-daily rocket and mortar attacks from the Strip at Israel's southern towns and villages.

But the forum of 12 senior ministers also warned that it ordered the Israeli military to prepare for a such an invasion, in case the mediation efforts on a truce failed.

"The security cabinet decided this morning to support Egyptian efforts to achieve calm in the south and end the daily targeting of Israeli civilians by the terrorists in Gaza," said a statement issued by the security cabinet.

"In parallel, the security cabinet has instructed the military to continue its preparations in the unfortunate events that the Egyptian track should prove unsuccessful," the statement said.

A government spokeswoman said the statement meant that Israel had decided to give the truce talks a "chance," but that no specific proposal had as yet been accepted.

She reiterated Israel's demands that any truce should include an end to all gunfire and rocket and mortar attacks from the Strip, an end to weapons smuggling, as well as "progress on the issue of Gilad Shalit," an Israeli soldier held captive in Gaza for the past two years.

The radical Islamic Hamas movement ruling Gaza demands the release of some 450 Palestinian militants from Israeli jails, in exchange for his freedom. But Israel has thus far rejected the list, which it says includes a large number of hardcore militants.