Elderly Israeli woman killed by Gaza rocket

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A 75 year old Israeli woman was killed yesterday by a rocket fired from Gaza as Israel suggested any truce in the Strip depended on the release of the Army corporal seized almost two years ago.

The woman died after the rocket struck a house in Yesha, nine miles from Gaza's eastern border and further than the usual targets of Qassam rockets. Islamic Jihad said it had fired rockets at the time of the fatal attack.

The move came as Egypt's intelligence chief Omar Suleiman spent the day in Israel seeking a ceasefire agreement following Egypt's success in persuading the Palestinian armed factions to drop its earlier pre-condition that Israel halts military action in the West Bank.

In meetings with Mr Suleiman yesterday, Israel's leaders—including the Defence Minister Ehud Barak—reportedly linked the release of Cpl Gilad Shalit explicitly to any putative ceasefire. Cply Shalit was seized by three militant groups—including Hamas—in a cross border raid in June 2006.

Prime Ministerial spokesman Mark Regev said that Cpl Shalit was "an integral element" and added: "Hamas cannot expect Israel to sit by idly when they are holding a young serviceman hostage now for almost two years.”

Meanwhile Mr Barak held out the prospect of a large scale military operation if Hamas did not halt fire from Gaza.

But Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri declared: "Any new conditions are an attempt to sabotage (Mr Suleiman's) efforts."

Attempts to agree a prisoner exchange for Cpl Shalit have yet to bear fruit.