Middle East
Olmert names envoys for Cairo talks
Two Israeli officials to negotiate truce talks in place of sacked Amos Gilad.
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2009 09:32 GMT
Gilad was replaced after he criticised Olmert's handling of the truce negotiations [ AFP ]

Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, has named two senior officials as the country's envoys for talks over a Gaza truce being held in Cairo.

Yuval Diskin, the Shin Beth intelligence agency head, and Shalom Turjeman, a senior Olmert aide, take the place of Amos Gilad who has been Israel's negotiator in truce talks with Hamas being brokered by Egypt.

Gilad, a senior defence ministry official, was dismissed on Monday after he criticised Olmert  over the negotiations.

In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Maariv, he criticised Olmert for what he described as the prime minister's "inconsistent" approach to the talks.

"Until now, the prime minister hasn't involved himself at all. Suddenly, the order of things has been changed.

"Suddenly, first we have to get Gilad," he said, referring to Olmert's announcement that there would be no truce with Hamas unless Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Palestinian fighters, was freed.

"I don't understand that. Where does that lead, to insult the Egyptians? To make them want to drop the whole thing? What do we stand to gain from that?"

Hamas angered

Olmert's decision to remove Gilad has also angered Hamas, the Palestinian faction in control of tha Gaza Strip.

"This shows that the Zionist occupation government has no intention of reaching an agreement on the calm or of concluding a prisoner swap," Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, said.

Gilad has been engaged for weeks in trying to sign a lasting truce with Hamas, to replace the shaky ceasefire signed in January that ended the 22-day conflict in Gaza.

His removal came ahead of a visit next week by Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state, to Israel and the West Bank for talks with Israeli and Palestinian officials. 

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