JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will not open its Gaza crossings until agreement is reached for the release of a kidnapped Israeli soldier.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s security Cabinet made the decision Wednesday in a meeting to discuss a proposed prisoner swap with Hamas, which has demanded the release of more than 1,000 Palestinians being held in Israel. The prisoners include those directly involved in terrorist attacks.
In a statement released after the meeting, the security Cabinet said it appreciated Egypt’s efforts to broker a more permanent cease-fire, but that a truce could not officially take place until after Cpl. Gilad Shalit is repatriated, Ha’aretz reported. Shalit was abducted in a cross-border raid in June 2006.
The border crossings between Israel and Gaza will open for humanitarian aid shipments and to send in basic equipment for rebuilding.
Egyptian mediators have said they are angry that Israel changed its stance just as an agreement was about to be approved.
Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said Tuesday that Israel was holding up a cease-fire.
"It is unacceptable to combine the truce issue with the question of Israeli prisoner Gilad Shalit, " he said from Damascus
Olmert said Tuesday that he is not sure a deal on Shalit’s release will be completed before the end of his term.