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Monday, February 2, 2009

Barak, Livni Row Bitterly over Gaza Truce Deal with Hamas

01/02/2009 | Al Manar

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni rowed bitterly during Sunday's cabinet meeting over Israel's response to an Egyptian-brokered deal for a year-long truce with Hamas in Gaza.

Barak, the Labor chairman, spoke in favor of agreeing to the deal, while Livni, the Kadima chairwoman, held that Israel should reject it.

The clash came as Al-Arabiya TV Sunday quoted Hamas sources as saying that the Islamic resistance group has accepted an Egyptian proposal for the truce with Israel in Gaza, which will take effect on Thursday. If all agreements are approved, the Rafah crossing will reopen this Thursday, and Hamas and Israel will declare a one-year truce brokered by Egypt.

According to the news network, a delegation on behalf of Hamas will arrive in Egypt on Monday in order to clarify the organization's response to the overall initiative, and particularly to the clauses referring to a truce. According to the report, Israel has agreed not to intervene in the Rafah crossing's operation.

Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki refused to confirm or deny the report, saying that the results of Egypt's efforts to obtain a truce would be announced on Monday.

Following the Israeli cabinet meeting, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was expected to hold a three-way discussion on the issue with the pair, who are both prime ministerial candidates. Olmert's position on the matter is not yet known.

Earlier Sunday, Olmert threatened that Israel would issue a "fierce and disproportionate" response if Gaza fighters continued to launch rocket attacks against southern occupied territories.

Speaking at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting, Olmert also vowed that Israel would not agree to return to the old rules of engagement in Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said there is no need to wait for a response. "The reaction must be strong and immediate as that is the only way that Hamas will understand the equation has changed," she said.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the security establishment had been instructed to formulate a response. "Hamas received a heavy blow and if needed will receive another one," he claimed.

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