JERUSALEM, Israel - Israeli defense officials believe that Hamas, the Gaza-based Palestinian faction, would like to extend the six-month tadhiyeh (temporary calm) with Israel, through the spring.
Egypt will present the proposal to Hamas, which Israel has already agreed to, sometime before the present cease-fire officially expires on December 18.
While Hamas officials concede that extending the truce is in their best interests, the verbal repartee between Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai with senior Hamas officials continues.
"The defense minister is seeking to keep with the cease-fire," defense officials said, calling it "an undisputed Israeli interest."
But they also stressed that the Israel Defense Force is ready to engage in a full-blown operation, should that become necessary.
"This is a point we've made sure got across," Vinai said. "Transitional government or not, the IDF is ready," Vilnai said.
Hamas officials said they're discussing the cease-fire's extension with other armed Palestinian factions in Gaza, but they say an extension would have to include opening all of the border crossings.
Sporadic Kassam rocket and mortar attacks by Palestinian terrorists from Gaza since the tadhiyeh went into effect last June have prompted Barak to close the border crossings for a day or two.
"(Hamas) has no intentions of giving Israel an eternal cease-fire free of charge," one Hamas official said, "unless the (economic) siege is lifted from Gaza."
Meanwhile, Hamas continues fortifying smuggling tunnels and building bunkers and related infrastructure with cement shipped from Israel that was supposed to be used for residential and industrial building.
According to senior Israeli military intelligence officers, Hamas is building an extensive maze of underground structures, patterned after those built by Lebanese-based Hezbollah terrorists in preparation for a future war with Israel.
Explosives warehouses and rocket launching sites are also being built underground, according to the Israeli daily Maariv.
Sources: YNet news, israel national news