Hamas has decided not to extend a 72-hour ceasefire with Israel because the Jewish state has rejected all of the group’s core demands in indirect talks in Cairo, senior Hamas officials stated Friday. The ceasefire was expected to end later that day, at 8:00 a.m. Friday.
“We have one position, we refuse to extend the ceasefire, it is a final decision,” said one Hamas official after a long meeting with Egyptian mediators, AFP reported.
Another official added that the Hamas delegation met for several hours early Friday with Egyptian officials. He said that in exchange for extending the truce, Hamas had demanded that Israel agree in principle to end Gaza’s border closure and allow the rebuilding of Gaza.
“Israel did not propose anything,” the first official continued. “It did not agree to end the blockade [of the Gaza Strip].”
A leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a smaller faction in Gaza that is also present in Cairo-mediated truce talks, also confirmed the factions had decided not to extend the ceasefire, according to AFP. The decision was “not likely” to be reversed by 8:00 a.m., another official said.
Earlier Friday, two mortars were fired from Gaza at Israel, landing in empty fields. Hamas has said it did not fire the mortars.
Despite the withdrawal of all its troops from Gaza by the time the three-day truce began early on Tuesday, Israel has retained tens of thousands of troops along the border who are ready to respond to any resumption of fighting.
Israel and Hamas have been holding indirect talks in Cairo on new, border arrangements for the blockaded coastal territory. Israel has said it is willing to consider easing border restrictions, but demands that Hamas disarm. The gaps between Israel and Hamas were wide, and it was likely from the start that an extension of the truce would be needed. Hamas has said it will not even contemplate Israel’s demand that it disarm. Israel has said it will not lift the blockade of Gaza without a demilitarization of Gaza.
The blockade has been enforced by Israel and Egypt to varying degrees since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007.
The blockade, which Israel says is needed to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza, has led to widespread hardship in the Mediterranean seaside territory. Movement in and out of Gaza is limited, and the economy has ground to a standstill and unemployment is over 50 percent.
The war grew out of the 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 the group’s members in the West Bank, as Hamas and other militants unleashed rocket fire from Gaza.
On July 8, Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, and nine days later, sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.
AFP contributed to this report.