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Friday, November 24, 2006

Israel: No end to Gaza raids until rockets stop

Last update - 11:09 24/11/2006

Israel: No end to Gaza raids until rockets stop
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent, Haaretz Service and Reuters

Israel wants Palestinian militants to stop firing rockets on the Negev before
it ends its operations in the Gaza Strip, rejecting Palestinian demands that
Israel take the first step to institute a partial lull in violence.

Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Fatah have offered to stop firing Qassam rockets on
Israel if the Israel Defense Forces first ceases its operations in the Gaza
Strip, Hader Habib, an Islamic Jihad official in Gaza, said Thursday night. He
said the miitant groups reached an agreement on the deal during a meeting of
representatives of the groups and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza.

Government spokeswoman Miri Eisin responded to the proposal by saying Israel
would only stop its actions after militants laid down their weapons.

"Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other groups have chosen to fire rockets into Israel
day in and day out," Eisin said. "Israel will continue to defend its citizens
against the rockets and will only stop its actions once those who fire, store
and make the rockets and those who smuggle in their components cease their

In addition, Israel Defense Forces sources told Israel Radio on Friday that
military activity in the Gaza Strip will continue, and even intensify, in an
effort to move the Qassam cells to areas that are less convenient for firing
rockets at Israel.

Labor Party secretary general Eitan Cabel, however, said he would be glad to
accept a deal that could lead to a cease-fire. Last year's disengagement from
the Gaza Strip was meant to put a halt to the hostility and killing in the
area, he noted.

"If this could lead to a cease-fire, I would be very happy for it to happen,"
Cabel told Israel Radio.

Meanwhile, Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal traveled to Cairo from
Damascus, where he is based, for meetings with the Egyptian Chief of
Intelligence, General Omar Suleiman.

The two discussed the details of a deal to exchange the abducted IDF soldier,
Gilad Shalit, for Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

Meshal arrived in Cairo at the head of a delegation of senior Hamas officials,
permanently based in the Syrian capital.

Among those in the delegation is Imad al-Ilmi, the director of the Hamas
bureau in Damascus, and Muhammed Nasser, a member in the political council.

In preparation for the visit, Hamas officials were busy trying to lower
expectations for any major breakthrough in the Shalit affair.

"There is no breakthrough or a pending deal to exchange prisoners," they told

Speaking with Israel Radio on Thursday, Osama al-Mazini, one of the Hamas
leaders in the Gaza Strip, said that the purpose of Meshal's visit to Cairo is
to hear about the Egyptian proposal for a prisoner exchange.

In the Gaza Strip Thursday, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas met
with Haniyeh for talks on the formation of a national unity government. No
major breakthroughs were reported following the meeting.

Senior Hamas officials stressed Thursday that they were demanding the release
of 1400-1500 Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit.

Osama Hamdan, representing Hamas in Beirut, said the organization is demanding
that Israel release all women and minors held in Israeli prisons before a deal
takes place. The deal would then be followed by the release of 1000 prisoners
parallel to the release of Shalit.

At a later stage Hamas expects the release of 500 more Palestinian prisoner

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