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IDF troops – will Israel embark on a major Gaza operation?
Photo: AP
Israel prepares for Gaza op
IDF ordered to prepare for possible escalation in Gaza as Israeli officials await Hamas answer on ceasefire deal; political sources: The way it looks now, terror groups won't accept all of Israel's conditions

Preparing for confrontation: Israel is preparing for the possibility that efforts to secure a lull agreement vis-à-vis Hamas will fail, prompting the IDF to embark on a wide-scale military operation against Gaza terrorists.

 

Senior officials in Jerusalem said Tuesday night that following the planned meeting in Cairo between Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman and Hamas representatives, as well as members of other Gaza terror groups, the National Security Cabinet is expected to decide whether Israel will be heading to a ceasefire or embarking on a military operation.

 

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak reportedly presented a tough stance in the talks vis-à-vis Hamas, undertaken with Egyptian mediation. During his meeting with top Egyptian security officials, Barak stressed that failure to accept Israel's terms for a ceasefire would lead to military escalation in the Strip.

 

Israel's conditions for a lull include significant progress on a deal that would secure the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, as well as an end to arms smuggling and to the movement of terrorists into and out of the Strip.

 

'Hamas on collision course with Israel'

Political leaders have already ordered the IDF to prepare for the possibility of lull efforts failing. In recent days, Prime Minister Olmert made it clear that the current reality in the Gaza region will not continue.

 


IDF soldiers near Gaza (Photo: Reuters)

 

Officials in Jerusalem stressed that this was not a negotiations tactic, but rather, an unequivocal stance.

Meanwhile, security officials said that according to assessments, the Hamas government is on a collision course with Israel.

 

"Quiet may only prevail in the Strip should Hamas and the other terror groups accept Israel's terms," a political source said. "The way it looks now, they are not moving in this direction to our regret. We just want to make sure we did everything we could in order to avert a military confrontation."

 

Officials in Jerusalem said that at this time the ball is in Hamas' court. "Israel is still showing restraint, but this will not last," one source said.

 

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