Gaza operation to expedite efforts to free kidnapped Israeli soldier: prime minister
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Thursday that the army operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip has generated renewed momentum in efforts to strike a deal for the release of captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, reported Xinhua.
"The operation (by the Israel Defense Forces IDF) created a number of levers that can aid in the expedition of Shalit's return, " local daily Ha'aretz quoted Olmert as saying.
"This is what I said and I will not add to this," because it will not benefit the return of Shalit, who was abducted by Gaza militants in a cross-border raid in June, 2006, said the outgoing premier.
Meanwhile, Israeli Defense Ministry's political-security branch head Amos Gilad, who arrived in Cairo on Thursday, is expected to raise the Shalit issue during his talks with the Egyptians on the security situation following the Gaza operation, said Ha'aretz.
According to the daily, Gilad is expected to say that Israel would not open the border crossings except for humanitarian needs until negotiations for Shalit's release are resumed.
Addressing the situation in Gaza following the IDF operation, Olmert said that "I hope the quiet will continue over a prolonged period of time, but we have neighbors whose reactions are not always possible to predict."
"We must take into account the possibility that things can unfold differently," warned the prime minister.
The 22-day-old Gaza operation, dubbed Cast Lead, was brought to a close on Sunday after both Israel and Hamas declared a ceasefire.
On Wednesday, the IDF withdrew completely from the coastal enclave, where more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed since the army operation began on Dec. 27, 2008.