JERUSALEM, Dec 15 – Israel’s troubled truce with Hamas has no end date, even though the Islamist movement insists it will end later this week, a senior Israeli defence official said Monday.,
"When we accepted a lull six months ago it was clearly understood that there was no end date," Amos Gilad, an advisor to Defence Minister Ehud Barak, told Israeli public radio.
"For Israel, the date December 19 has no significance," he added.
"If the lull continues, Israel will respect it. If the opposite occurs, we will react … with the appropriate military means," he added.
Gilad, who conducted the negotiations for the original truce that went into force on June 19, returned to Cairo on Sunday for talks with Egyptian mediators but denied having gone there specifically to discuss extending the truce.
Several of the Israeli government’s more hawkish ministers, who have argued for tougher responses to Palestinian rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, have criticised the trip.
The army had taken advantage of the truce to make preparations for a possible future operation into Gaza, said Gilad. But he warned against any attempt by Israel to take back control of the territory.
Hamas political supremo Khaled Meshaal said in a television interview from Damascus with Hamas’s Al-Quds satellite television on Sunday: "The truce was limited to six months and ends on December 19."
The government of outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has indicated it is keen to see the six-month-old truce extended, provided Hamas halts rocket and mortar fire against southern Israel.
The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire had been marred by persistent tit-for-tat violence in recent weeks and Hamas complaints that Israel had failed to keep its side of the bargain by easing its crippling blockade of Gaza.