Barak to Mubarak: No Truce With Hamas Unless Attacks Stop

Contrary to speculations, Defense Minister makes no indication Israel will informally accept Gaza truce.

SHARM EL-SHEIKH - Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Monday said that there can be no truce or cooling off period between Israel and Hamas unless there is an end to rocket attacks on civilians.

Barak spoke to reporters following his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, to whom he outlined Israel's concerns and conditions over any possible truce deal with Hamas.

The Egyptians have been acting as mediators between Hamas, which dominates the Gaza Strip and launches rockets attacks into Israel's southern communities, and the Israelis. There was no Egyptian comment following the meeting.

On Tuesday, however, Egyptian intelligence chief Lieutenant General Omar Suleiman will meet with a Hamas delegation in Cairo led by the groups deputy political chief Moussa Abu Marzouk.

The delegation crossed into Egypt from the Gaza Strip Monday, with Marzouk flying from Damascus.

Hamas has said it wants a temporary truce with Israel. But Israel fears the group will use the lull to rearm and prepare for a new round of fighting.

Barak added that any truce or cessation of hostilities with Hamas would also involve the release of captured Israeli Defense Forces soldier Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Israeli media speculated Monday that Barak would informally agree to the truce proposal during his meeting with Mubarak, but there was no indication this took place.

Pressure has been mounting in Israel for a major military operation on the militants who regularly fire rockets at Israel's southern towns and attack army patrols along the Gaza-Israel border.

But at the same time, Israel has been talking to Egyptian mediators trying to work out a cease-fire that would avert such a clash.