Hours before a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel was set to run out, Palestinian officials said Monday night that Israeli and Palestinian teams have signed an outline ceasefire agreement that details issues to which both sides have agreed, and issues that will be discussed in a second round of negotiations at a later date, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported.
The Israeli team then returned to Jerusalem for consultations, the report said. In the Monday night meeting, the Israelis will either approve or reject the proposal, the report said. At 11 p.m., an Egyptian official is to announce the ceasefire has been extended, the report said.
The ceasefire outline would call for the complete removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported, citing Palestinian sources.
According to the outline, Israel will agree to open all of its crossings into the Gaza Strip, and Egypt will open its Rafah crossing. The fishing zone will be expanded, and Israel will release Palestinian prisoners recently arrested in the West Bank.
The discussions on the airport and seaport will be delayed to the second round of negotiations.
However, an Israeli defense official told Walla news that, contrary to earlier reports, the Israeli delegation has not returned from Cairo and no deal has been finalized.
Prime Minister’s Office spokesman Mark Regev refused to comment on the report.
Earlier in the day, less than 24 hours before the end of the five-day truce between Israel and Hamas, members of the Palestinian negotiating team told London-based daily al-Hayat that two options were on the table: either a detailed agreement based on the Egyptian ceasefire proposal; or a formula prescribing “quiet in return for quiet.” In either case, Hamas officials have informed the Egyptian mediators that they will not resume the war.
However, public statements by Hamas leaders indicated that optimism might be premature, and Israel was braced for a possible resumption of hostilities.
Sources in the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command said Monday afternoon they anticipate Hamas would try to launch a surprise attack and strike a significant blow to Israel — either by way of an infiltration through a cross-border tunnel that has gone undetected by Israel; through small aircraft that can carry explosives; or by firing an anti-tank missile at IDF patrols on the Gaza border.
There has also been speculation that Hamas might allow smaller radical groups to resume rocket fire at Israel, if it does not resume rocket fire itself.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned earlier Monday that Israel was prepared to respond forcefully if Hamas resumed rocket fire.
“We are preparing for any outcome — the Israeli team was instructed to insist firmly on Israel’s security needs, and the IDF is gearing up for a very forceful response if the fire resumes,” he said.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.