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Page last updated at 12:41 GMT, Tuesday, 10 June 2008 13:41 UK

Israel leaders discuss Gaza plan

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni arrives for talks
Top Israeli officials are meeting amid growing public frustration

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is meeting top military officials and ministers to discuss a possible wider military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

Violence flared in north-east Gaza as talks began, with militants mortaring southern Israel and an Israeli missile strike killing three militants.

Egypt is trying to broker a truce over the Israel-Gaza border.

On Monday, the parents of an Israeli soldier held by Palestinian militants in Gaza received a letter from him.

Israel wants Cpl Gilad Shalit to be freed as part of any truce, but the Hamas militant movement - which controls Gaza - says his release can only be part of a separate deal involving an exchange of prisoners.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak joined Mr Olmert along with military strategists to discuss the situation, before a security cabinet meeting which will be held on Wednesday.

"The current situation cannot last. The prime minister will discuss the various options available, including the use of force," a government spokesman told the AFP news agency.

"It is possible a decision will be taken after this meeting of the security cabinet."

Sealed off

Militants in Gaza fire rockets at southern Israel on an almost daily basis, a response they say to Israeli military operations in Palestinian territory.

Palestinian militants guard border with Israel
Israel could face stiff resistance if it sends ground forces into Gaza
In one hour on Tuesday morning, members of the Hamas military wing fired 20 mortar rounds towards a border crossing used to pump fuel into Gaza.

Three militants died and two others were wounded when the Israeli military fired a missile at the mortar crew.

Israel has sealed off the Gaza Strip and blocks all but essential humanitarian supplies, while launching regular raids in an attempt to counter militant fire.

Militant rocket fire killed two people in Israel during May, raising public pressure for a decisive response. Sixteen people have been killed in such attacks since 2000.

About 500 people, nearly all of them Palestinians killed in Israeli raids and more than half of those armed militants, have died in violence since the troubled Israeli-Palestinian peace process was revived in November 2007.

Israel has so far held back from a broad military campaign in Gaza, which observers warn is likely to result in heavy casualties for Israeli troops.


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