Israel holds off on Gaza sweep


Israel’s Security Cabinet decided to prepare a military sweep of the Gaza Strip but hold off its implementation.


Prime Minister Ehud Olmert convened top government colleagues Wednesday to discuss a recent escalation in Palestinian cross-border shelling attacks from Gaza, as well as Egypt’s efforts to broker a truce between the territory’s Hamas rulers and Israel.

The Security Cabinet “authorized Defense Minister Ehud Barak to exhaust the dialogue with Egypt in order to achieve all of Israel’s conditions for an actual calm,” Olmert’s office said in a statement, adding that one of Israel’s conditions is “advancing the release” of Gilad Shalit, a soldier held captive in Gaza for nearly two years.

Also, the Security Cabinet “instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for military action in the Gaza Strip, according to a rapid timetable, should the Cabinet convene and make a decision to this effect.”

Olmert is under domestic pressure to quell the fire from Gaza, but political analysts believe that a criminal investigation into his affairs has made it difficult from him to order any sweeping policy change now.

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