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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Ramon: Israel should reassess Gaza ceasefire

Intelligence brief on lull's hold prompts vice premier to urge ministers to reevaluate current calm. 'Hamas is breaching the agreement, acquiring more missiles and toughening stands on Shalit's release,' he says
Roni Sofer
Published:  09.21.08, 13:17 / Israel News
Vice Premier Haim Ramon said Sunday that the cabinet must reassess Israel's ceasefire agreement with the militant groups in the Gaza Strip. Ramon spoke after the cabinet was briefed on the matter by the Head of Military Intelligence Research Division, Brigadier-General Yossi Baidatz.
The brief, said Ramon, "revealed that Hamas is breaching the agreement, acquiring more long-range missiles, allowing the occasional fire on Israel and permitting Gaza terror cells to try and carry out attacks on Israelis.
"Furthermore," he added, "it seems that Hamas is toughening its stand on the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit. All these new fact mean we have to reevaluate the situation."
Defense Minister Ehud Barak refused to comment on Ramon's demand, but his office said that "the defense minister has made it clear many times that Israel cannot afford to complain about any additional day of calm.
"Weapons smuggling are something we have seen in the past and now we are witnessing what Egypt is doing about it. The ceasefire is observed for the most part and keeping it is an Israeli interest. It's out opportunity to bring Gilad Shalit home."

'Lull in Hamas' best interest'
Baidatz told the ministers that the past three months have seen a relative clam envelop the Gaza Strip, as a noticeable drop has occurred in the number of missile launchings at the Gaza vicinity communities: "It still happens occasionally... We see some of the small militant group fire rockets out of frustration."
The ceasefire, he added, is still in Hamas' best interest: "On the one hand they're disappointed that the Rafah crossing is still closed and that Israel delays the transfer of goods sometimes, but still – more goods are being funneled into Gaza.
"Hamas is using this time to carry out different governmental operations, like getting all the clans under control," concluded Baidatz, "but the weapon smugglings are ongoing, as their were before the ceasefire took effect."
Senior Hamas official in Gaza, Mahmoud al-Zahar, said Friday that it was Israel which was backing out of the understandings brokered in Shalit's case, and that should it continue to rescind on the points already agreed, Hamas will demand the negotiation begin again, from scratch.
"If Israel wants to start from scratch under new terms, no problem," al-Zahar told the Palestinian Ramatan News Agency on Friday.
"But our terms will also be different than before. Our demands will be much larger than before. If they want a deal, they need to meet our demands," he said.

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