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Egypt's Intelligence Chief in Israel Working on Gaza Truce

Egypt's intelligence chief has held talks with Israeli leaders about a possible truce in the Gaza Strip. VOA's Jim Teeple has details from our Jerusalem bureau.

Egypt's powerful intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman briefed Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his talks with Hamas militants. Suleiman is trying to get both sides to agree to a six month truce in the Gaza Strip. In a brief encounter with reporters, Suleiman and Defense Minister Barak said they were hopeful the process will move forward.

"We hope that we will produce productive discussions. Thank you for your invitation. I am sure that we will achieve together the concerns of our countries," said Barak.

Defense Minister Barak warned that if Hamas does not stop its rocket attacks against southern Israel, Israeli defense forces will take broad actions against the militants. He also said weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza must stop.

Speaking in Gaza, Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar said his organization is waiting for Israel's response to its demands which call for Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Danny Ayalon, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States says the Egyptian mediation might be able to get Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel.

"Certainly the Egyptian intervention is very important and I believe with the right amount of pressure from the Egyptians and from other parties in the Arab world, and also from the Israelis, on the ground, Hamas which is no way in a position to really dictate terms - I think they can take something which is less than a cease fire with the understanding that they will not fire any rockets," said Ayalon.

Israeli media reports say Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Suleiman that Israel will not agree to any truce unless Hamas agrees to release captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, something Hamas has said it will not do unless Israel releases hundreds of Palestinian prisoners it holds.

Mr. Olmert says he will visit Egypt in the next few weeks where he will discuss the Gaza situation with President Hosni Mubarak, as well as discuss ongoing peace talks with the moderate Palestinian government of Mahmoud Abbas.