Israel: No Truce Without Shalit

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CBNNews.com - JERUSALEM, Israel - Outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert dismissed reports in the Arab press of an imminent agreement between Hamas and Israel.

Olmert said that without the release of captured IDF (Israel Defense Forces) Corporal Gilad Shalit, there would be no truce.

Palestinian terrorists kidnapped Shalit on June 25, 2006, in a cross-border attack on an IDF outpost near the Kerem Shalom crossing with the Gaza Strip, which left two soldiers dead and three others wounded.

"The prime minister's position is that Israel will not reach understandings on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit," read a statement released by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) on Saturday.

"It should be emphasized that top priorities for Israel are the security of the residents of the south [from rocket attacks] and the release of Gilad Shalit. Israel will invest all its efforts in these two goals," the statement read.

At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, Olmert said the Security Cabinet is preparing a new proposal for an extended cease-fire agreement with Hamas, which includes a three-phased plan for Shalit's release.

Olmert told Cabinet ministers that he would go over the proposal for Shalit's release with Likud chairman Binyamin Netanyahu, who is expected to become the country's next prime minister.

Meanwhile, early Saturday, Lebanon's al-Manar television quoted exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal saying that a cease-fire with Israel would be signed on Sunday in Cairo.

A short time later, the French news agency AFP quote Mashaal telling reporters in Qatar that "there had been a setback and it [the truce] will not start as was expected."

In Cairo, Hamas spokesman Taher Nunu sent an e-mail to reporters in Gaza saying an agreement with Israel would be signed "within the coming three days."

"Many obstacles have been resolved, especially stopping all forms of aggression and the issue of the quality and kind of goods [entering Gaza] and the opening of the border," Nunu wrote.

Despite these statements by Hamas officials, Israel's outgoing prime minister made it clear that the border crossings with the Gaza Strip would not be reopened until Shalit is freed.

"First Gilad's release and then all of the other issues," Olmert said. "First Shalit will be home and then the [border] crossings will be open," he said.

Speaking with participants of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations on Sunday, Olmert acknowledged that in exchange for Shalit, Israel will be releasing Hamas prisoners who perpetrated horrendous acts of terror on Israelis.

"There are those who might say it is a point of weakness. Others will call it a point of great strength that one life is so important to us," he said.

Among the prisoners demanded by Hamas are Abbas Ah-Said, Abdallah Barghouti and Ibrahim Hamad, all three of whom masterminded some of the deadliest suicide bombings in Israel's history.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, The Associated Press, Haaretz, YNet news

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Tzippe Barrow

Tzippe Barrow

CBN News Jerusalem Bureau

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