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      Israel, Hamas Prepare for End of Ceasefire

      Both Israel and Hamas are preparing for the end of the Gaza ceasefire in another month. Hamas threatens renewed violence.
      By Maayana Miskin
      First Publish: 10/20/2008, 1:48 PM

      Both Israel and Hamas are preparing for the end of the Gaza ceasefire in another month. During the ceasefire Hamas committed to ending rocket attacks on nearby Jewish towns, while Israel agreed to allow shipments in and out of Gaza and to stop counter-terrorist operations and airstrikes. Several rocket attacks took place during the ceasefire, which has lasted for five months so far, but the overall number of attacks was much lower than in the months before.

      Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said Sunday that the group had not yet begun to consult with other Gaza terror gangs regarding the continuation of the ceasefire. Hamas leaders must first discuss the matter amongst themselves, he said. Senior Hamas terrorist Abu Ubaida, head of the rocket-firing Al-Kassam branch, said Hamas was “fully prepared for the post-ceasefire stage.”

      Despite Radwan's statement, Arab media outlets report that Hamas has asked for a three-month extension to the original six-month ceasefire. However, Hamas conditioned the extension on its being applied in Judea and Samaria and on the re-opening of the Rafiah crossing at the Egyptian border. The Olmert administration has said that the ceasefire would include the release of kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit before Rafiah will be reopened.

      Defense Minister Ehud Barak discussed the ceasefire on Sunday during a meeting with community leaders from Sderot and other Jewish communities near Gaza in Tel Aviv. “The ceasefire is fragile by its very nature, but we have nothing to regret,” Barak said. "The ceasefire lasted longer than expected and may continue," he said.

      Israel is better off for having agreed to the ceasefire despite the fact that Hamas has gained strength in the absence of IDF operations in Gaza, Barak added. The five months of relative quiet have allowed Israel to make progress on plans to reinforce homes in Sderot and surrounding towns against rocket fire, he said. In addition, “We should not regret even a single day of quiet,” he said.

      The IDF has been watching Hamas during the ceasefire and is following events in Gaza, Barak said. “The IDF will know how to operate if and when it becomes necessary,” he said. No matter what decision are made regarding the ceasefire, “We do not want the situation we had before the ceasefire, that is, a reality in which normal life cannot continue in the area and yet there is no intense and comprehensive operation within Gaza,” he said.