Israel sets key condition for Gaza ceasefire
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Tuesday set a key condition for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, saying it would not agree to a truce unless it included provisions to prevent Hamas from rearming.
"Preventing a Hamas arms buildup is the necessary foundation of any new calm arrangement. That is the make-or-break issue," said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.
Regev said that was Olmert's message in talks on Monday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who called in meetings with Israeli and Palestinians leaders for a rapid Gaza ceasefire.
Regev said Hamas, which has smuggled weapons into the Gaza Strip through tunnels running under the border with Egypt, used the previous six-month ceasefire brokered by Cairo to double the range of its rockets from 20 km (12 km) to 40 km (24 miles)
"Under no circumstances will we agree to a new calm that will allow them (Hamas) to increase their range to 60 km so we have rockets falling on the outskirts of Tel Aviv," Regev said.
Israel, whose leaders fight a parliamentary poll on February 10, has made clear its priority in the Gaza offensive is securing the safety of its citizens. Hamas has demanded a lifting of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip as part of any ceasefire.
Israeli officials have said that instead of observers monitoring a future truce, Israel wants an international mission on the Egyptian-Gaza border to focus on preventing Hamas from re-establishing a network of smuggling tunnels.
(Reporting by Adam Entous, Editing by Katie Nguyen)
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