Barak-Mubarak to meet in Cairo soon

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JERUSALEM: Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak is to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo in the coming days, as tensions rise in the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli official said on Saturday.

“The minister will travel to Cairo in the next few days and hold talks with President Mubarak, reservist General Amos Gilad, a political adviser at the defense ministry, told public radio.

“Security and strategic issues will be on the agenda, but not the possibility of a ceasefire with Hamas, he said.

On Friday, two senior cabinet ministers – Transport Minister Shaul Mofaz and Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer – urged Israel to examine any serious ceasefire proposal from Hamas.

Gilad refused to rule out an Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip, from which it withdrew in the summer of 2005.

“To occupy Gaza is a very complicated business and no one wants to have to undertake it, he said. But “you must sometimes, in the life of a nation, put all the options on the table.

Almost 20 Palestinian militants have been killed in a series of Israeli land and air operations aimed at halting rocket fire into the Jewish state over the past few days.

Egypt, the first Arab state to make peace with Israel, has in the past undertaken mediation efforts to resolve crises in Israeli-Palestinian ties and clashes between Palestinian factions.

Gilad declined to comment on Cairo’s role in attempts to release Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit who was captured by Palestinian militants in June 2006 from the edge of the Gaza Strip. -AFP

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