Barak Travels to Sharm el-Sheikh

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Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt - Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak left for the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheik Monday, where he will meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Intelligence chief Omar Suleiman.

Barak will also attend the World Economic Forum and meet with Turkish Foreign Minister Ali Babacan to discuss Turkey's efforts to mediate between Israel and Syria.

Later, his Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Muhammad Hussein Tantawi, will host a dinner meeting with Barak.

According to Israeli news sources, Barak will tell Mubarak and Suleiman that Israel will agree to a staged acceptance of the Egyptian-brokered tahadiyeh [temporary calm] with Hamas and 12 smaller Palestinian terror groups.

To start, Israel will halt counter-terror operations in the Gaza Strip if Hamas orders a halt to rocket and mortar shell attacks on southern Israel.

If those steps prove successful, Israel will gradually ease the economic blockade on Gaza.

Then, if Hamas agrees to release captured Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Corporal Gilad Shalit, Israel will continue evaluating the 450 Palestinian prisoners Hamas demands in a prisoner exchange.

While Israel has softened its policy of releasing prisoners with "blood on their hands," Hamas is demanding the release of terrorists involved in mega terror attacks, which killed and maimed scores of Israelis.

According to defense officials, Barak will clarify Israel's position Monday, but he will not finalize any agreement.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Likud chairman and opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu also attended the World Economic Forum.

"Hamas is a mutual enemy of Israel and Egypt," Netanyahu told Egypt's president. "Israel has no choice but to topple the Hamas regime," he said.

Source: The Jerusalem Post

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