Al-Jazeera: Gilad in Egypt to discuss ceasefire

Suleiman postpones visit to Israel; London paper: Decision comes in wake of continued IDF ops.

Suleiman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Suleiman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Two days after government officials told the Jerusalem Post about a package deal being formulated by Egypt which would include a cease-fire in Gaza and end the ongoing Kassam rocket attacks, the Defense Ministry's diplomatic-security bureau, Maj.- Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad set out to Cairo in order to advance the talks, Al-Jazeera reported. Meanwhile, for the third time in a month, Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman decided to postpone his upcoming visit to Israel in protest of IDF operations in Gaza and the West Bank. The London-based daily, Asharq al-Awsat, quoted a senior Egyptian official as saying that despite enormous Egyptian efforts to convince Hamas to halt the Kassam rocket fire, Israel has refused to curb its activities against the Palestinians. This fact was evidenced by a covert IDF operation in Bethlehem last week which killed four Islamic Jihad operatives, the official added. The Egyptian deal was expected to include a ceasefire in Gaza, an Egyptian commitment to redouble anti-smuggling efforts on the border, give Hamas a presence at the Rafah crossing, and reinstate Palestinian Authority control over other crossings from Gaza into Israel, government officials told the Post on Sunday. Both Fatah and the Americans have been pushing for a long time for Hamas to agree to allow a Fatah presence at the Gaza crossings into Israel. Israel has been reluctant, out of concern that it would not be able to exert control over who or what crossed, while Fatah has been keen on getting something of a foothold back into Gaza. According to the officials, the package deal was being brokered by Egypt, without any direct contact between Israel and Hamas. The package was expected to be a verbal understanding, with nothing in writing. According to the officials, the deal does not include a prisoner exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, although talks on this matter are taking place in parallel. The package deal will still need to be approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Olmert has said over the last two weeks that Israel is not negotiating a deal with Hamas, and that the organization knew that if it stopped shooting rockets at Israel, Israel would respond in kind.