Israel set to vote on ceasefire as Gaza fighting continues

The Israeli government is set to vote on a unilateral truce Saturday after overnight shelling killed two Palestinian boys in a UN-run school, according to senior israeli officials. Earlier, a Hamas official criticised the terms of the truce.


"Ceasefire talks gain steam, but outcome uncertain" (to read more click here)

REUTERS - Israel plans to halt its Gaza offensive without any agreement with Hamas, a senior Israeli official said on Saturday. The Islamist group vowed to fight on.


"The goal is to announce, subject to cabinet approval, a suspension of military activities because we believe our goals have been attained," said the official, asking not to be named.


Israel launched air raids on the Gaza Strip on Dec. 27 and ground troops moved in a week later.


Without an accord with Hamas, diplomats said they feared Israel would let only a trickle of goods through Gaza's border crossings, hampering reconstruction and creating more hardship for its 1.5 million people. The security cabinet is due to meet in the evening and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will address the nation after that.


"There is no agreement with Hamas," the Israeli official said, adding that Israel would reserve the right to act if Hamas continued firing or launched rockets across the border.


A Hamas official in Beirut said earlier that the militants would fight on until Israel met their demands, mainly for an end to a crippling Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.


Israeli forces attacked 50 targets in the coastal enclave overnight. Tank fire killed two small boys sheltering at a United Nations school, a U.N. official said.


"These two little boys are as innocent, indisputably, as they are dead," John Ging, head of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, told Reuters after the school was hit.


The Israeli army was checking the report.


In addition to declaring a unilateral ceasefire, Israeli officials said they expected Israel and Egypt to announce an agreement on increased security along the Gaza-Egyptian border.


Under that agreement, they said, the Rafah border crossing would only reopen in line with a 2005 agreement with the Palestinian Authority, which calls for President Mahmoud Abbas's forces to be in control and for Europeans to monitor traffic.


Abbas left for Cairo and his aides said he would meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak there on Sunday morning.


In a televised address, Mubarak called on Israel to end its military operations immediately and said his country would call for a meeting on post-war reconstruction.


Hamas drove Abbas's forces from Gaza in June 2007

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