Olmert Hopeful For Truce, But Keeping Military Ready

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel’s prime minister says he hopes a truce can succeed with the radical Palestinian group Hamas, but he’s keeping the Israeli army ready just in case.

Israeli officials have confirmed that they’ve agreed to a cease-fire with Hamas. The truce goes into effect at 6 a.m. local time Thursday. It would end a year of violence that has killed more than 400 Palestinians and seven Israelis.

An Israeli government spokesman has said that Thursday could be the start of “a new reality” where Israeli citizens won’t be the target of the near-daily rocket attacks from Gaza.

But Prime Minister Ehud Olmert adds that Israeli government officials have ordered the military to be ready for “any” military operation that might be needed if the truce fails.

The cease-fire would likely be followed by an easing of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. Talks on releasing a long-held Israeli soldier would then intensify.