Israeli officials may OK cease-fire

WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Israeli officials may vote this weekend to declare a cease-fire in Gaza, a government spokesman said.

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the Israeli security Cabinet could vote Saturday night to call a cease-fire in Gaza, The New York Times reported Friday. Israeli forces would remain in Gaza for the short term while Egypt continues efforts to broker a longer-term cease-fire, the newspaper said.


"It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together," Regev said. "There will be discussions (Saturday) morning and it looks like a Cabinet meeting will take place (Saturday) night. Everyone is very upbeat."

Hamas leaders in Gaza appeared ready to accept many of Egypt's demands for a cease-fire, the Times said, but a top exiled Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, rejected Israeli terms for a cease-fire.

"Israel will not be able to destroy our resistance, and the United States will not be able to dictate us their rules," Meshal said. "Arab countries should help Hamas to fight against the death of civilian Palestinians."

A document the United States and Israel signed Friday is one element that should lead to a durable Gaza cease-fire, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said. The memorandum of understanding, among other things, was designed to help prevent the flow of arms and explosives to terrorists in Gaza.


Rice signed the document with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Washington as the fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas continued.

"As you know, there are a number of conditions that need to be obtained if a cease-fire is to be doable," Rice said during a news briefing. "Among them is to do something about the weapons smuggling and the potential for resupply of Hamas."

In the larger context of a cease-fire agreement, Rice said the United States wanted to have "an immediate and durable cease-fire, and we've been working aggressively toward that goal. We are hoping that as the elements of durability begin to come into place, that the need for continued operations can cease."

She said the United States has been in contact with Egypt as it tries to broker a cease-fire.

"I do believe that when this is over, it's going to be important for there to be an effort to deal with the humanitarian situation," Rice said.

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