Exclusive: Hamas turns the heat on in Gaza to support its truce negotiators in Cairo

debkafile‘s military source counted four armed Hamas assaults on the Gaza-Israel border fence Tuesday, May 20. They were made to press the Palestinian group’s truce terms and demand for 350 jailed terrorists “with blood on their hands” as the price as the price for freeing the kidnapped Israeli solder Gilead Shalit. By afternoon, Israeli forces had fought four Palestinian gangs back from the border fence – one was carrying explosive devices opposite Beeri and two anti-tank missiles further north and south of the Karni crossing. A missile crew was hit by the Israeli air force in the morning. Hamas reports three killed.
In Cairo, Egyptian go-betweens laid out Israel’s terms for a ceasefire deal to the Hamas team from Damascus as presented by defense minister Ehud Barak Monday, May 19, to Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman at Sharm el-Sheik. Israel wants kidnapped soldier Gilead Shalit included in the ceasefire deal. It has offered to include 72 convicted murderers in the list of jailed terrorists for release. Hamas is demanding 350.
Prime minister Ehud Olmert and Barak, after opting for a truce in Gaza rather than an effective military operation against Hamas, are expected to compromise on this question too.
Olmert’s statement at the Sunday, May 18, government session in Jerusalem that the Gaza situation cannot go on and Israel “is very close to the point of a decision” on this issue, is seen by inside sources as an attempt to mislead the public which is demanding that the IDF give Hamas a real thrashing. He hopes the deal will go down more smoothly if Gilead Shalit is freed.
The three key outstanding questions are:
1. The number of jailed Palestinian murderers to be traded for Shalit.
2. How and what stage Israel lifts its blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. This will entail throwing open all the enclave’s border crossings at some point as part of the reciprocal ceasefire package.
3. Egyptian leaders have promised to do their best to close down the smuggling of Palestinian arms and terrorists trained in Iran in order to strengthen the ceasefire. But to date, these assurances have never held up for long.

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