Israeli media sources reported on Monday that the Israeli government has instructed the army to stop attacking the Gaza Strip if the Palestinian resistance do not shoot homemade shells from the strip toward nearby Israeli towns.
Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak, however, stated on Monday that the army will attack Gaza ‘at any time needed’.
Ehud Olmert, Israeli Prime Minister, told reporters that no ‘truce’ had been reached with Hamas, and that there have not been any direct or indirect talks about such an issue. His statement came after meeting the Czech Prime Minister on Monday at midday.
According to Israeli government sources, the new orders to the army come as part of Egyptian efforts to mediate a truce between the Hamas movement and Israel. The Hamas movement has controled the Palestinian coastal region since emerging from a bitter power struggle with rival the Fatah movement in June 2007.
Last week, the Israeli army attacked Gaza and conducted a three day ground offensive. By the end of the week, the death toll in Gaza had reached 125, of whom 95 were civilians. The Israeli military stated that the operations were to stop the launching of homemade from Gaza into Israeli areas. Palestinian homemade shells have killed 13 Israelis since 2001.
Egyptian Intelligence Chief, Omer Sulieman, reportedly told Israeli officials in Cairo on Sunday that, in order to start talks of a possible truce with Hamas, both the Israeli army and Palestinian resistance should ease the situation and stop attacks.
Fawzi Barhum, Hamas spokesman, told IMEMC that the Palestinian attacks on Israel ‘is a natural response to the Israeli army attacks and killing of Palestinians living in Gaza’. Barhum stated, ‘the resistance shoot homemade shells at Israel when the Israeli army attacks, kills and continues to impose a siege on the Gaza residents’
Sulieman told Egyptian media on Monday that a Hamas delegation was expected to arrive in Cairo to discuss a possible calming of tensions with Israel. Barhum stated that Hamas ‘continue to meet with Egyptian officials, since there are a lot of issues to be discussed, such as the borders and the stranded Palestinians from Gaza in Egypt.’