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Israel is awaiting Egypt's answer to the remaining questions regarding the temporary cease-fire, the tahadiyeh, between Israel and Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip. The Egyptian reply is expected later this week.

A Hamas delegation from Gaza held talks over the past two days in Cairo with the heads of Egyptian intelligence.

Israel and Egypt have yet to finalize two issues: Defining the connection between the tahadiyeh and a deal for the release of kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and determining the degree of Egypt's commitment to countering arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza.

Defense sources in Israel said last night that "it is important to understand that the meaning of the agreement with the Egyptians is that within several days after the cease-fire goes into effect, intensive negotiations begin over Gilad Shalit's release. This will be a tough deal to complete - therefore the government will be called upon to make tough decisions to bring Gilad home."

The sources hinted at the heavy price Hamas will demand: releasing hundreds of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons, many of whom were convicted of murder for their involvement in major terror attacks.

Meanwhile, the past three days have been the quietest in several weeks along the Gaza Strip.

Yesterday Israeli workmen were shot at while fixing the perimeter fence near Kissufim. No one was hurt. No mortar shells or rockets were launched.

Relative quiet

The Israeli army is also restricting offensive measures in the Strip. But this does not signify the cease-fire has gone into effect, but rather restraint on both sides at Egypt's behest, to improve the atmosphere ahead of a tahadiyeh.

Despite the relatively quiet weekend, 200 Western Negev residents yesterday blocked the Sufa and Karni cargo crossings for several hours to protest the firing of Qassam rockets on their homes. At Sufa, some demonstrators clashed with police and truck drivers, who wanted to move their loads across.

A protest tent was set up at the Nir Am intersection over the weekend, drawing many people yesterday from communities around the region.

"Residents feel desperate and helpless. This place is meant for talking and thinking together about how to get the Gaza periphery on the government's agenda. Right now we are in 17th or 18th place on the government's agenda. We aspire to make the top three slots," one protest leader said.