Egypt is expected to announce on Monday night an open-ended ceasefire to halt more than a month and a half of fighting between Israel and Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip, an Israeli defense official asserted.
The anonymous official, who was quoted by the Walla news site, said Cairo would open the Rafah crossing to Gaza as part of the arrangement, adding that the initiative would likely be accepted by both Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The official said that Egypt expected the new ceasefire to last for at least a full month.
Palestinian factions accepted the new Egyptian proposal, according to the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency, which reported that they were awaiting Israel’s response to the initiative.
Islamic Jihad officials Khaled al-Batsh and Ziad Nakhleh said early Monday that a truce between Israel and militant Palestinian factions in Gaza would be announced in the coming hours.
Late Monday morning, Israeli officials said they were prepared to return to ceasefire talks in Cairo, al-Arabiya reported.
Still, Hamas did not confirm that a deal was in the works.
According to reports in Turkish media, Saudi Arabia has been heavily pressing the Palestinians to accept the Egyptian proposal. Riyadh reportedly assured the Palestinians that even if nothing were to come of talks with Israel, it would see to the lifting of the blockade on the Strip, through the opening of the Rafah crossing.
On Sunday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal told Iranian TV that the terror organization would not return to Cairo to broker a diplomatic solution to the conflict, and argued that “resistance” was the only way to force Israel into accepting the group’s demands.
Hamas has fired over 3,500 rockets at Israel in the past 46 days, including some 600 from close to schools, mosques and other civilian facilities, the Israeli army says. Over 2,000 people have been killed in Gaza as Israel seeks to thwart the rocket attacks and smash a network of attack tunnels dug by Hamas under the border. Gaza-based human rights groups claim over 70 percent of those killed are civilians, while Israel asserts 750-1,000 of the dead are Hamas and other gunmen. It also blames Hamas for all civilian fatalities, since Hamas set up its rocket launchers, tunnel openings and other elements of its war machine in Gaza neighborhoods and uses Gazans as human shields.
Sixty-eight people have died on the Israeli side: 64 soldiers and 4 civilians, most recently a four-year-old boy killed by mortar fire on Friday.