Israeli cabinet accepts Egyptian formula for truce with Hamas

The prime minister Ehud Olmert’s decision, coupled with orders to the military to stand by for all eventualities, was endorsed by the security cabinet Wednesday, June 11, as Hamas continued to shoot mortars at Israel. Four shells injured three Israelis at the same Kibbutz Nir-Oz factory where Amnon Rosenberg was killed last week. A storehouse of inflammable materials caught fire.
The Palestinian attack followed – and was succeeded by – Israel air force raids over southern Gaza to stop the mortar and missile fire.
debkafile‘s military sources report that Kibbutz Nir-Oz and its neighbors in the Eshkol region which abuts on Gaza have no shelters and the Red Color alert for missiles does not work for mortar shells. Hamas’ newly-smuggled 155mm ordnance is more powerful and accurate than its older stocks.
Because of the mortar fire, the IDF shut the Sufa crossing to the entry of food trucks for the Gaza population. Tuesday, 18 mortar rounds and four missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip, forcing truck drivers to halt their deliveries of wheat for Gaza through the Karni crossing. A group of Israeli protesters from the locations under daily Palestinian attack protested outside the prime minister’s office in Jerusalem Wednesday. Many are leaving the region, abandoning homes and jobs, after giving up on government action to halt the measured Palestinian harassment.
debkafile‘s military sources reported earlier Tuesday that prime minister Ehud Olmert, supported by defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni, had effectively opted to take up the Egyptian-Hamas informal offer of a truce in Gaza – possibly preceded by a nominal Israeli military attack which leaves Hamas riding high.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources confirm that, contrary to various claims, Hamas has not accepted Israel’s terms for a truce, any more than the Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas heeded Israel’s ultimatum when he went ahead over the weekend with reconciliation talks with Hamas in Dakar. The Olmert government has quietly bowed to Cairo’s formula and agreed to a tryout of an informal, unsigned truce, which Hamas is free to end at any moment; problems arising would be solved ad hoc.
The Israeli government thus surrendered to the following situation:
1. Hamas is under no binding commitment to hold its missile fire or force its allied terrorist groups in the territory it governs to join a ceasefire. Although they rule the Gaza Strip, Hamas leaders shrug off responsibility for Jihad Islami and other Palestinian terrorist groups. The missile and mortar attacks from Gaza may slow down for a while but undoubtedly continue. The same applies to Palestinian terrorist incursions across the border.
2. The informal truce arrangement does not provide for the release of the Israel soldier Gilead Shalit, as Olmert promised. He has been held captive for nearly two years since he was kidnapped on Israeli soil. Thursday, Hamas rejected any linkage between the truce and his release.
3. Another Israeli condition ignored in the upcoming truce deal is the guaranteed cessation of smuggling to the Gaza Strip through Sinai of Palestinian fighting men, armaments and money. Whereas Egypt offered another of its empty promises to stem the flow, in the last two weeks, an unprecedented volume of smuggled war materiel was allowed to reach the Gaza Strip and top up Hamas’ war arsenal.
4. Israel has quietly agreed to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip in stages. This entails reopening the border crossings, including the Rafah terminal to Egyptian Sinai. Next are negotiations through Egypt for handing the crossing facilities over to Mahmoud Abbas’ presidential guard.
In this way, Israel lets itself be maneuvered into “contributing” to the Palestinian fence-mending deal between Fatah and Hamas, and accepting Hamas as the ruling power in the Gaza Strip behind a token PA administration.
There is nothing to stop the same formula from being extended to the West Bank, installing Hamas as the majority power in Ramallah.

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