Israel’s Security Cabinet will hold a vote Saturday that could halt Operation Cast Lead in Gaza, at least temporarily stopping the assault after three weeks of punishing violence. Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during Rice’s last official workday in Washington, D.C., to sign a “memorandum of understanding” vis-à-vis Gaza.

Al Jazeera English:

Israel’s security cabinet is expected to decide to halt the war on Gaza at a meeting on Saturday, Israeli sources have said.

The move would be seen as being preferable to entering an Egyptian-brokered formal ceasefire with Hamas, unnamed sources told the AFP and Reuters news agencies.

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AP via Google News:

The “memorandum of understanding” signed in Washington by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni calls for expanded intelligence cooperation between the United States and Israel, as well as other U.S. allies in the Middle East and Europe to prevent Hamas from rearming should Israel agree to a truce.

At a hastily arranged State Department ceremony, Livni, who arrived in Washington just hours earlier, described the deal as “a vital complement for a cessation of hostility” in the troubled region.

She said it could advance Israeli decision-making on the future of its offensive operations in Gaza, adding that it was meant “to complement Egyptian actions and to end of the flow of weapons to Gaza.”

Rice said the deal “should be thought of as one of the elements of trying to bring into being a durable cease-fire, a cease-fire that can actually hold.” The Bush administration has backed Israel throughout the crisis in Gaza, insisting that any truce be sustainable.

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