Decision on Gaza Strip action near, Israeli leader warns

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert threatened once again Sunday that Israel would take military action to end continuous rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and warned that a decision on the matter was approaching.

"We are very close to the crossroads to a decision regarding the situation in the Gaza Strip," he told ministers at the start of Sunday's weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, the dpa reported.

"The current situation will not continue," he added.

The premier's comments come amid reports that the sides are negotiating, through Egyptian mediation, a truce which would put a halt to Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel, and Israeli air and ground raids on and in the Gaza Strip.

A spokesman for Hamas, which Israel maintains is ultimately behind the rocket fire of all militant movements since it administers the Gaza Strip, said Sunday the fate of the ceasefire will be decided Tuesday when a delegation from the Islamist movement meets Egyptian officials in Cairo to debate the Israeli response to the truce offer.

Israel has demanded that the truce deal include the release of an Israeli soldier held captive in the Strip since being snatched on June 25, 2006, but Hamas says it will release him only in exchange for Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Israel, which fears the militants will use any truce to rearm and reorganise, also wants the ceasefire deal to facilitate an end to arms smuggling to the Gaza Strip.

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