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Israeli Foreign Minister Meets with Top Egyptian Officials


Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with top Egyptian officials, Thursday, amid escalating violence in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. Livni vowed that Israel would strike back at Hamas, because the situation had become unbearable.

Livni's visit to Cairo comes amid an increasingly bitter escalation of hostilities between the radical Islamic Hamas movement, which controls Gaza, and the caretaker Israeli government.

Livni told Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak that Israel's patience was exhausted after days of rocket barrages into Israel from Gaza, and that the Israeli government would no longer accept the status quo.

"Hamas needs to understand that our aspiration to live in peace doesn't mean that Israel is going to take this kind of situation any longer," Livni said. "Enough is enough and while we are working with the pragmatic leaders, trying to change the situation on the ground in the West Bank, we cannot tolerate a situation in which Hamas continues to target Israel, Israel's citizens, and this situation is going to be changed."

Egypt had been hoping to broker a new ceasefire between the Israel and Hamas, after the last one expired six days ago.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit tried to put on a brave face, amid the deteriorating situation, warning both Israel and Hamas against increasing tensions and against a military showdown.

"There should not be provocations on both parties. Both parties should restrain their actions," Aboul Gheit said. "Right now we see that missiles are being fired and right now we see Israeli incursions or on the verge of incursions into Gaza. What we are asking them both to restrain themselves and then we see how to build back to that period of quiet.

"Egypt will not stop efforts," he went on to say, alluding to negotiations to renew the lapsed truce, "but I cannot imagine that we can convince the two sides to go back to the calm as long as there is this escalation."

While Tzipi Livni vowed to retaliate for the increasingly zealous rocket barrages against Israeli territory, she pointed the finger of blame at Hamas.

"Gaza Strip being controlled by Hamas, and the price is being paid by Israeli children and Palestinian children, but the blame is and the address is Hamas," Livni said.

"Hamas," she added, "controls them and Hamas decided to target Israel. This is something that has to be stopped, and this is what we're going to do."

For its part, Hamas has been demanding that Israel lift a blockade of the small, coastal enclave, which has been subjected to weeks of intermittent shortages of fuel, food and hard currency.

Hamas' military wing, the militant Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, has been ratcheting up the rhetoric against Israel in recent days, threatening to hit Israel with more rockets, if the Jewish state strikes Gaza.

The Qassam group's leaders blasted Israel, which has killed a number of its militants in recent air strikes, saying "[you] should know that a decision to attack Gaza will open up the gates of hell and we will make you regret your stupidity with blood and tears."

Repeated Egyptian attempts to broker a new ceasefire with Israel, in addition to months of behind the scenes negotiations to mend broken ties between Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas have, until now, produced nothing.



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