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Israel: Lasting ceasefire conditional

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Israel: Lasting ceasefire conditional

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Israel is ruling out a truce in Gaza unless Hamas agrees to release a captured Israeli soldier.

Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert pledged to block a ceasefire brokered by Egypt. Last week Hamas officials expected a truce with Israel to be announced within days. Olmert said: “This is the priority of Israel. First, Gilad Shalit, second, the end of smuggling arms across the Egyptian border through Philadelphia Corridor into Gaza. And third, complete total ceasefire and any hostile activities by the Hamas from Gaza.” Whether Olmert’s brinkmanship can produce a breakthrough in the last few weeks he has left in office depends on Israel making concessions that could bolster Hamas. Gilad Shalit was captured by Palestinian militants in a cross-border raid in 2006. So far, Hamas has rejected Israeli demands to include the fate of the kidnapped soldier in the ceasefire agreement. The Islamist group wants Israel to open all border crossings with the Gaza Strip as a condition for talks on his release.