Egyptian and Israeli leaders met to discuss a proposed prisoner swap
between Israel and Hamas, as well as the security situation in the Gaza
Strip following a truce between Israel and Palestinian militants.
VOA's Jim Teeple reports from Jerusalem, Palestinian militants fired at
least three rockets at southern Israel on Tuesday in violation of the
Nearly a week after an Egyptian-mediated truce went into effect between Israeli forces and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. They discussed the next step in the process; a prisoner exchange that would likely see Palestinian militants released in exchange for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who was seized two years ago by Palestinian militants from his post along the Gaza border.
Speaking as the meeting got underway in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Mr. Olmert said Egypt is playing a key role in calming the situation in Gaza. The Israeli prime minister thanked Egypt for its continuing efforts to get Shalit released, and he says the recent truce in Gaza was in large part due to Egyptian efforts.
Israeli officials traveling with the prime minister said Egypt had pledged not to reopen the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza until Shalit is released. Mr. Mubarak would not comment except to say Egypt is making an effort to get the Israeli soldier freed.
Meanwhile, Israeli authorities confirmed they had killed two Palestinians, including a senior Islamic Jihad commander in the West Bank city of Nablus in the first such operation since the Gaza truce went into effect last week.
Later in the day in apparent retaliation, Islamic Jihad militants fired at least three rockets from Gaza - striking the southern Israeli city of Sderot. A statement from Hamas militants said they remained committed to the truce.
The Israeli operation was condemned by Palestinian officials attending a 40-nation conference in Berlin that pledged $242 million in donor aid to build up a judicial infrastructure, and boost the security forces of moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank.
Mideast envoy Tony Blair told the conference Palestinians need a build a judicial system in order to fulfill their aspirations for a state.
"This is just not about forces with guns, it is about a properly functioning criminal justice system, it is about courts and a prosecution service, a prison service," he said. "It is about a full infrastructure that goes to make up a criminal justice system of a state.
In the West Bank city of Bethlehem, French President Nicolas Sarkozy held talks Tuesday with moderate Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Sarkozy, who wrapped up a three-day visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories, said Israel's security is non-negotiable for France, but that Israel should freeze settlement activity in the West Bank. The French president also strongly condemned Hamas militants, saying peace cannot be created through terrorism.
Mr. Sarkozy's departure from Israel was marred when an Israeli border policeman committed suicide about 100 meters from where the departure ceremony was taking place. As a gunshot rang out security officials quickly moved Mr. Sarkozy and his wife to their plane cutting short the ceremony.