Chief of Staff: Gaza Calm will be Fragile and Short

Ashkenazi warns "we are on a collision course" with Hamas. Egypt, Hamas announce truce with Israel will begin Thursday at 6:00 a.m.

Gil Ronen,

Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi
Lt.-Gen Gabi Ashkenazi

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Tuesday that in his estimate, the calm in Gaza will be "fragile and short."

"We have to make the most of the calm but prepare for an incursion. We are on a collision course." He said that the IDF's cumulative attacks on Hamas made the calm more likely than it would have been otherwise.

The Head of the Research Department for Military Intelligence, Brig.-Gen. Yossi Baidatz, told the committee that Hamas does not see itself as responsible for making sure the other terror organizations respect the calm. "The ones responsible for calming the other groups are the Egyptians," he said. He also estimated that Hamas will try to use the period of calm to dig tunnels into Israel, and will continue to smuggle weaponry into Gaza
A-Zahar said if Israel respects the calm, this would "advance" the release of the captive soldier.

Calm to begin on Thursday
A senior Egyptian source announced Tuesday afternoon that a lull in the hostilities  between Israel and Hamas would begin on Thursday morning. Egypt's government news agency quoted a senior Egyptian political source, who claimed that both sides had agreed to implement the first stage in Cairo's plan for a ceasefire, which would include an end to mutual attacks.

Hamas, too, was quick, on Tuesday evening, to announce the upcoming ceasefire. arch-terrorist Mahmoud A-Zahar called a news conference and said that the calm would begin Thursday at 6:00 a.m. He added that there was "no connection" between the calm and a deal for the release of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. He did say, however, that if Israel respects the calm, this would "advance" the release of the captive soldier.

Earlier on Tuesday, the IAF successfully targeted the gunmen involved in the 2006 kidnapping of Cpl. Shalit.

A-Zahar also said that "the calm is a victory for the resistance organizations who took up arms, and its meaning is that the [Israeli] siege on Gaza has failed."

Barak: too soon to announce calm
Israel, however, has not come out with statements similar to those by Egypt and Hamas, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was too early to make such proclamations. Barak added however that the two sides were "examining the possibility" of announcing a calm.

Speaking at the "Sheatufim" philanthropic conference in Beit Yehoshua on Tuesday, Barak said that "the IDF is prepared for any development, but it is important to maximize the chance for a truce in order to promote calm among the Gaza Belt communities, in addition to negotiating the release of Gilad Shalit."

"The test will be in the implementation," he explained. Barak said. "It is hard to estimate how long [a calm] would last," he added.

Gilad in Cairo
Senior Defense Ministry official Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad will be holding talks in Egypt Tuesday evening with the head of Egyptian intelligence, Gen. Omar Suleiman, regarding the plan for a 'calm' in Gaza. Egypt's intelligence chiefs met with a Hamas delegation from Gaza in the last few days, and the deleg
"It's another victory for radical Islam," Ramon said. "It [Radical Islam] won in Lebanon and now in Gaza.
ation is still in Cairo. According to Haaretz, Egyptian officials may conduct a series of consultations with both sides, according to a model similar to that used by Turkey in mediation between Syria and Israel.

Vice Prime Minister Chaim Ramon reiterated his opposition to a calm with Hamas in a speech at a memorial ceremony for terror victim Nir Regev Tuesday. "It's another victory for radical Islam," he said. "It [Radical Islam] won in Lebanon and now in Gaza. So why be moderate? After all, why is Hamas seeking an agreement? Because this will be their chance to represent Gaza as a Hamastan state."

Ramon: calm is Hamas victory
Ramon warned, "there will be an [IDF] incursion in the end,but it will take a much higher toll in lives. The reason Hamas wants the calm is that it can no longer stand the siege and the actions we are taking against it."

Nachi Eyal, the head of the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, said in response that Ramon is "the father of the Disengagement doctrine and the evacuation of Gaza, and instead of handing out advice he should resign and go home." Ramon "is the last one who can give Israel advice," he added.