Israeli Premier Ehud Olmert was on Sunday consulting domestic political leaders 
on Egyptian-brokered talks for a truce in Gaza, a day after ruling out a 
ceasefire without the release of a captured soldier.

"Mr. Olmert will today hold consultation with the main political leaders over a 
truce" with Hamas, government spokesman Mark Regev told AFP.

Asked whether the outgoing premier was going to meet with the man widely tipped 
to replace him -- Benjamin Netanyahu of right-wing Likud who is expected to 
form the next government after last week's elections -- Regev said Olmert would 
"take into account the new circumstances created by the elections."

Egypt has been struggling to mediate a lasting truce between the two sides 
since a devastating three-week war in Gaza was halted by separate ceasefires on 
January 18 that have since been strained by tit-for-tat exchanges of fire.

Olmert said on Saturday that the Jewish state would not agree to any ceasefire 
without the release of Gilad Shalit, a soldier seized in a joint raid by Hamas 
and two other militant groups in June 2006.

"The position of the prime minister is that Israel won't reach any arrangement 
on a truce before the release of Gilad Shalit," Olmert's office said.

One of the conditions demanded by Hamas is that all the crossings into the 
enclave be opened, bringing an end to the Israeli blockade imposed when the 
Islamist group pledged to Israel's destruction seized Gaza in 2007.

Hamas has demanded that the release of Shalit be negotiated as part of a 
separate prisoner exchange involving hundreds of people held in Israeli jails.

"There is no relationship between the two files," Hamas government spokesman 
Taher al-Nunu told AFP, referring to the truce and Shalit. He added that the 
negotiations would continue as certain issues had not yet been resolved.

Egyptian security chief Omar Suleiman has been leading separate negotiations 
with Israel and Hamas and has said efforts were under way to draw up a list of 
Palestinian prisoners who might be released in exchange for Shalit.

While Hamas has demanded an end to the blockade, Israel has insisted that will 
happen only when Hamas releases Shalit.

On Saturday Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum accused Israel of "backtracking" on 
the talks by demanding an open-ended agreement and stepping up attacks on the 
group's Gaza enclave.

"(Israel) has demanded a long-term, open-ended truce and not an 18-month truce 
as had been (previously) established," he said.

The two sides have been struggling to reach a formal truce in the wake of the 
Israeli offensive launched in December that killed some 1,300 Palestinians and 
13 Israelis and left vast swathes of the impoverished territory in ruins.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 40 rockets and mortar rounds at 
southern Israel since the end of the war and the Jewish state has carried out 
several deadly air strikes targeting suspected militants and smuggling tunnels.

On Saturday, the Israeli army said a longer-range Grad-style rocket fired by 
Gaza militants had evaded its early warning system and struck the seaside town 
of Ashdod, 38 kilometres (23 miles) north of Gaza.

The rocket was believed to have been fired on Friday evening, as militants 
launched shorter-range rockets and a mortar round, prompting a series of 
Israeli air strikes that killed one militant and wounded nine other people.

In a separate incident a roadside bomb exploded near an Israeli army patrol 
along the border without causing any casualties, the army said.

Last week Israel held general elections in which right-wing parties -- which 
have vowed tough action against Hamas in Gaza -- made major gains, casting 
further doubt on the truce talks.

The Islamist group -- which won 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections but 
remains blacklisted as a terror group in the West -- seized power in Gaza in 
June 2007 after routing forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

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