Truce decision due on Sunday

Soldier moderately wounded by sniper; 5 hurt as Kassams land near chicken coop in Eshkol region.

soldiers rest gaza 224 (photo credit: AP [file])
soldiers rest gaza 224
(photo credit: AP [file])
The government will decide on an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, senior defense officials said, as violence flared up in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday. In the afternoon, five people were wounded when a barrage of Kassam rockets hit near a chicken coop in the Eshkol region in the western Negev. A Thai worker suffered moderate wounds to the head, and four other were lightly wounded by shrapnel. They were evacuated to Soroka Medical Center in Beersheba. Earlier in the day, a soldier performing engineering work near the Kissufim crossing to southern Gaza was moderately wounded in the shoulder by a Palestinian sniper, and was evacuated by helicopter to Soroka. At the same time, a 107mm Katyusha rocket was fired from Gaza and struck near Sha'ar Hanegev. An Israeli response was quick to come, in the form of an air force strike on Kassam launchers in southern Gaza, the IDF said. Three Islamic Jihad terrorists were wounded, one of them critically. Regarding the cease-fire proposal, defense officials said that a final decision would be made upon Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's return from Washington, at a scheduled meeting of the security cabinet on Sunday. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi are said to favor giving a truce a chance. Israel has insisted that abducted Cpl. Gilad Schalit's release be connected to a cease-fire deal, but defense officials said Egypt had objected to linking the issues and had proposed that Israel first accept a cease-fire. Following the approval of a truce, the Egyptians said, they would increase their efforts to mediate a prisoner swap between Hamas and Israel that would include Schalit. Defense officials said Egypt was putting its prestige on the line to get a truce approved and had in recent weeks increased its efforts to thwart weapons smuggling into Gaza via tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor. One example came over the weekend when Egyptian police announced they had uncovered a major weapons cache in the mountains of the northern Sinai. Officials said that some 2,200 bullets, 30 anti-aircraft missiles, several sacks packed with hand grenades and automatic rifles, and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers were stored inside the mountain and were destined for the Gaza Strip.