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IDF tank in Gaza
Photo: Reuters
Olmert and Livni, at crossroads
Photo: Amos Ben-Gershom, GPO
'Diplomatic window for truce still open'
Jerusalem sources say chance for diplomatic ceasefire agreement to remain open for two-three days, but believe barring any surprises, phase three of Operation Cast Lead inevitable

Jerusalem sources said on Sunday that the window of opportunity for arriving at a diplomatic agreement for a ceasefire in Gaza will remain open for two to three more days.

 

Progress in the American-Egyptian-French initiative, and particularly its clauses on security arrangements in the Philedelphi route, is what may prevent Israel from launching phase three of Operation Cast Lead in the Strip.

 

If the initiative fails, a green light will be given to occupy further areas of the Strip, to strike the Hamas establishment harder and to wear out its military strength.

 

Jerusalem sources say Hamas is aware of the heavy price the organizations will pay for such a move. However, Hamas, which is under Iranian pressure not to give in to Israel, is also affected by its desire to win on the Gaza front in order to take over the West Bank in the future.

 

Members of the limited cabinet will inform cabinet ministers at Sunday's meeting that Israel is approaching a crossroads.

 

Meanwhile, Israel is giving the diplomatic process a chance, but it seems that, barring any groundbreaking political surprises, there will be no choice but to expand the military operation to phase three.

 

The cabinet that convened on Friday did not provide any solutions, and decided to go ahead with the offensive, despite the UN Security Council's resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.

 

Meanwhile, the political echelon has ordered the IDF to remain in phase two of the operation, which includes ground force operations, and aerial, maritime and artillery assaults as needed. Reserves forces remained outside Gaza in waiting.

 

A top IDF officer said on Saturday that in order to achieve all the operation's goals, military activity inside the Strip should be intensified and expanded.

 

In closed talks military sources said stopping at this point could be a missed opportunity in the long run.

 

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