update - 10:27 17/01/2009     
      Israel's Cabinet to vote Saturday on unilateral Gaza truce  
      By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent, and The Associated Press  
      Tags: Gaza, Israel News, Hamas, IDF  

      The cabinet will hold a vote on Saturday evening to decide whether to 
enact a unilateral cease-fire with Hamas in the Gaza Strip. 

      The decision would mean Israel has put an end to the three-week-long 
Operation Cast Lead without an agreement with Hamas, relying instead on the 
support of the United States and Egypt in battling arms smuggling into Gaza. 

      A government source emphasized that there has been great progress with 
Egypt in reaching an agreement on fighting arms smuggling. The deal would 
require the combined use of technological measures on the border between Gaza 
and Egypt, operations against smugglers in the southern Gaza town of Rafah and 
the use of international experts to identify smuggling tunnels on the border. 

      The deal would also call for cooperation between Israel and Egypt on 
matters relating to the Gaza Strip in which they have shared interests, without 
the interference of Hamas. 

      Egypt is at the moment considering whether to organize a summit in the 
near future in Cairo between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Egyptian President 
Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. 

      The United States and Israel signed an agreement on Friday aimed at 
stopping the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, U.S. Secretary of State 
Condoleezza Rice said. 

      The deal includes measures meant to fight arms smuggling from Iran to 
Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms 
reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring 

      The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the 
United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including 
detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training 
to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training 
would be used for monitoring Gaza's land and sea borders. 

      The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO 
partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of 
Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text. 

      It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. 
military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives 
flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories. 

      Although signed by the Bush administration, the agreement is binding on 
the incoming administration of President-elect Barack Obama and Rice and State 
Department spokesman Sean McCormack said both Obama and Secretary of 
State-designate Hillary Rodham Clinton had been briefed on the details. 


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