Israel-Gaza ceasefire holds as negotiators resume talks in Cairo
ABOVE: Civilians on both sides of Israel/Gaza conflict apprehensive as latest cease-fire holds
CAIRO, Egypt – An Egyptian-brokered cease-fire halting the Gaza war held into Monday morning, allowing Palestinians to leave homes and shelters as negotiators agreed to resume talks in Cairo.
The truce took effect just after midnight (2101 GMT), preceded by heavy rocket fire toward Israel. In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the cease-fire would allow humanitarian aid into battered Gaza neighbourhoods and the reopening of indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.
On Monday morning, high school students in Gaza filed the streets as they headed off to pick up their graduation certificates after the Education Ministry said they’d be ready. People waited to buy fuel for generators as power and communication workers struggled to fix cables damaged in the fighting. Long lines formed at ATMs.
In Cairo, negotiators said talks would resume at 11 a.m. (0800 GMT) Monday. The four-member Israeli delegation arrived at Cairo International Airport earlier that morning.
The monthlong war, pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants, has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers, officials there say.
The fighting ended in a three-day cease-fire last Tuesday. Egypt had hoped to use that truce to mediate a long-term deal. But when it expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting late Sunday ahead of the expected cease-fire.
Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ demand for a complete end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced by Egypt and Israel. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.
The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports. Unemployment there is more than 50 per cent.
Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian delegation member, said he was optimistic ahead of Monday’s talks.
“We hope to reach a deal within the 72 hours, based on ending the blockade and opening the crossings,” Salhi said.
Israeli officials had walked away from negotiations over continued fire from Gaza. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”
The current Gaza war escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank. Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.
Associated Press writers Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, and Peter Enav in Jerusalem contributed to this report.
© 2014 The Canadian Press