Senior defense official Amos Gilad on Thursday returned from the truce talks in Egypt and was to brief Defense Minister Barak, prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni on his meetings with Egyptian Intelligence head Omar Suleiman.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on Thursday updated U.S. Secretary of State Rice on the situation in Gaza and said Israel is interested in utilizing the Egyptian channel to bring about a cease-fire and an end to weapons smuggling in order to end the operation, said a statement from the office.
Rice said that the U.S. would be willing to assist in solving the smuggling issue and sign a memorandum of understanding with Israel on the subject, it said.
Hamas on Wednesday agreed in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire but is still demanding clarifications on a number of issues, senior officials for the group said in Cairo.
Hamas official Salah al-Bardawil said the group had generally accepted the terms of the Egyptian proposal but demanded clarifications on several clauses. He said that the Egyptian initiative is the only one presented to Hamas.
"We're not talking about amending the proposal, since it was presented by Egyptian President [Hosni] Mubarak, but this is a proposal that includes many phrases, and each side has the right to present its opinion and interpretation of these phrases. We have voiced our stance and our interests within the framework of this general outline and the guidelines anchored in the Egyptian proposal," Bardawil said.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmet Aboul Gheit said Monday evening that Hamas had accepted the Egyptian draft, which calls for immediate end to aggression on Gaza, the opening of the border crossings and the withdrawal of Israeli forces inside the Strip. He said that Hamas representatives presented their stance to Egyptian intelligence officials, and that they in turn will relay the outcome of their talks to Israel.
Mohammed Nasser, a member of Hamas' political bureau who was present in the talks, voiced reservations regarding the announcement that the Egyptian proposal was acceptable to Hamas, saying that Hamas' willingness to cooperate with Egyptian efforts did not mean that they had accepted the proposal.
"There are still clauses under discussion and we are still pushing the issue," he said.
In Israel, defense sources said Wednesday that the Hamas declaration reflected a significant softening of the group's original stance.
The same sources said Hamas was responding to the pressure from the military offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel must try to seek a quick cease-fire, said the source, and the Israel Defense Forces must try to avoid 'complications' - army talk for losses.