Israeli Delegation to Cairo for Truce Talk

Ad Feedback - CAIRO, Egypt - An Israeli delegation, led by Major General Amos Gilad, will travel to Cairo Thursday to discuss the Egyptian-initiated plan for a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Military Bureau, will be accompanied by outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's foreign policy advisor, Shalom Turgeman.

High on Israel's priorities for wrapping up the Gaza incursion is preventing Hamas from continuing to smuggle arms and munitions through tunnels along the border with the Egyptian Sinai.

Over the past two weeks of Operation Cast Lead, the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has destroyed more than 100 of an estimated 300 arms smuggling tunnels.

"We are hoping to get guarantees from the Egyptians that they will stop the tunnels," one senior defense official said.

"We are prepared for every possibility," he said. "If the cease-fire does not work out, we are ready to escalate and expand our operation," the official said.

Israel does not want a premature cease-fire in the Gaza operation, such as occurred in the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, which allowed the Hezbollah terror group to rearm with twice the rocket power -- now estimated at 40,000 Katyusha rockets -- that it had before the war.

The IDF has dealt a serious blow to the terror infrastructure in Gaza, including rocket-launching pads, smuggling tunnels, weapons warehouses and explosives laboratories.

Most of the group's government buildings were destroyed or profoundly damaged.

Meanwhile, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Hayat reported that Olmert has agreed to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to advance Egypt's cease-fire proposal.

According to al-Hayat, Olmert has also said he will meet with Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas.

On Wednesday, Egyptian UN Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz told reporters that Israel and the PA agreed to send delegations to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire.

Egypt has also invited Hamas to send a delegation to Cairo, which may be from Damascus since Gaza-based leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Mahmoud al-Zahar and Siam Siad went underground during the first week of the Gaza operation.

Sources: The Jerusalem Post, israel national news

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