Haniyeh says truce talks nearing completion

US delegation helps border police with tunnel-detection.

Gilad Schalit 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Gilad Schalit 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Officials said on Monday thar it was likely that the cease-fire with Hamas would go into effect in the next few days. On Sunday, a Hamas delegation met in Cairo with Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman to discuss the format of the deal. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said that the cease-fire talks were nearing completion. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday that one of the goals of the cease-fire was to expedite the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit. Once and if the cease-fire goes into effect, Barak said, Israel will need to make "painful decisions" on the release of Palestinian prisoners in exchange for Schalit. "It will be difficult to renew negotiations over Schalit if we are in the midst of a wide-scale conflict with Hamas in Gaza," Barak said during a Labor Party meeting in the Knesset. Also Monday, a US military delegation arrived along the Egyptian-Gaza border and was assisting border police there in setting up tunnel-detection equipment to counter smuggling under the Philadelphi Corridor. Egyptian officials said Cairo had spent $30 million on the advanced tunnel-detection devices. The delegation, which included engineers, was also training Egyptian border guards to use the equipment, officials said, adding that Egypt had decided to invest in the systems out of "national-security concerns." Israel has stipulated its acceptance of the cease-fire on a stop to the smuggling along the Gaza-Egypt border. Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yuval Diskin has been appointed by the cabinet to prepare a weekly "report card" on Hamas military buildup in Gaza and to ensure that smuggling is reduced. Israeli defense officials noted Monday that Egypt had increased its efforts in recent months to stop the weapons smuggling.