The sources said the Israeli invasion would be the leading issue for
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, scheduled to return from a brief visit to the
United States. Olmert, who discussed the Hamas threat with President George
Bush, was said to be ready to approve military plans for a massive operation
in the Gaza Strip.
For his part, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak again warned of a
major invasion of the Gaza Strip. Barak did not elaborate.
"The military operation is closer than ever, and it will precede the
cease-fire," Barak said. "We are nearing the day of reckoning in the Gaza
Strip, in which we will decide whether to go in the direction of an
agreement of calm or a wide-scale military operation."
Over the last three months, Egypt sought to mediate a ceasefire or
so-called lull in violence between Israel and Hamas. The sources said the
effort failed amid continued Hamas missile strikes and Israeli retaliation.
On June 4, Al Qaida defended Hamas and called for an end to Israel's
economic blockade of the Gaza Strip. Al Qaida No. 2 Ayman Zawahiri termed
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak a traitor for refusing to allow entry to
"The brother from Gaza is refused entry [by Egypt], while an Israeli
tourist is allowed to enter without a visa," Zawahiri said.
Hamas has decided to pressure Israel by increasing missile strikes from
the northern Gaza Strip. The sources said Hamas was also ordering supporters
to provoke clashes along the borders of Egypt and Israel.
"We have stressed that the lull must guarantee a lifting of the siege
and the reopening of all crossings, especially the Rafah border crossing,"
Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said.
Still, Egyptian sources said Israel has not formally rejected a plan for
a lull or ceasefire with Hamas. They said Hamas missile strikes were being
directed by Iran, who has provided the lion's share of foreign funding to
the Islamic regime.
"In the end, Olmert will make his decision based on what he heard from
Bush," an Egyptian diplomat said. "If there is an Israeli invasion, it is
clear that Bush gave the green light."