GAZA (Reuters) - Israel plans to halt its Gaza offensive without any deal with Hamas, an Israeli official said on Saturday, in an apparent effort to deny the Islamist group any gains from the three-week-old conflict.
Hamas leaders in exile have vowed to fight on, but many of the 1.5 million Palestinians enduring incessant bombardment and privation in Gaza seemed desperate for their ordeal to end.
"The goal is to announce, subject to cabinet approval, a suspension of military activities because we believe our goals have been attained," said the official, asking not to be named.
The security cabinet met shortly before 8 p.m. (1800 GMT). Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was to address the nation afterwards.
Reporting on the start of the meeting, Israel's Channel 10 television said the military commander had recommended concluding the campaign.
Israel launched air strikes on the Gaza Strip on December 27 and ground troops pushed into the coastal enclave a week later.
Without an accord with Hamas, diplomats said they feared Israel would let only a trickle of goods into Gaza, hampering reconstruction and creating more hardship for its people.
"There is no agreement with Hamas," the Israeli official said, adding that Israel would reserve the right to act if Hamas continued firing or launched rockets across the border.
A Hamas official in Beirut said earlier the militants would keep fighting until Israel met their demands, mainly for an end to a crippling economic blockade.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak urged Israel to end its Gaza operation immediately and said he planned to host a reconstruction conference, but did not say when.
Egyptian state news agency MENA said Olmert had called Mubarak to give "Israel's positive response" to ceasefire calls.
Mubarak also invited Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to discuss Gaza in Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he might attend. Western diplomats said the British, German, Spanish and Turkish leaders could all also join the talks.
Israel plans ceasefire, Hamas vows to fight on | Reuters