Israel agrees to 24-hour Gaza truce extension requested by Egypt

Hamas confirms Cairo talks extended but denies that progress has been made on an agreement

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a visit to Ashdod Port on August 18, 2014. (Photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon at a visit to Ashdod Port on August 18, 2014. (Photo credit: Ariel Hermoni/Ministry of Defense/Flash90)

Israeli diplomatic sources confirmed late Monday night that a five-day ceasefire in Gaza reached last week will be extended by 24 hours, at Egypt’s request.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations were set to conduct more talks Tuesday, via Cairo, on a long-term truce.

The five-day ceasefire expired at midnight local time (2100 GMT).

Hamas confirmed the extension, but blamed Israeli “obstinacy” in the grueling negotiations and said that no progress has been made in talks

“The negotiations have faced difficulties because of the occupation’s obstinacy, and the 24-hour (extension) came as a result of a request by the mediators to have another chance,” senior Hamas official Izzat al-Rishq wrote on Twitter, later telling Al-Jazeera that there has been no progress on an agreement in the Egypt-mediated indirect talks.

“Both sides have agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire,” the official with the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said.

The official Egyptian MENA news agency later quoted an “official Egyptian statement” confirming the ceasefire’s extension.

The negotiations center on an Egyptian proposal that meets some of the Palestinian demands, such as easing the blockade of Gaza, but defer other stumbling blocks to later negotiations. Israel and Egypt maintain the blockade to prevent Hamas, the Islamist terror group that seized control of Gaza in 2007, from importing more weaponry.

Hamas had repeatedly warned it would not extend the ceasefire, pressing for immediate gains that would allow it to claim concessions from Israel after the devastating four-week war in July and August.

The terror group has come under pressure from both Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt, which borders Gaza to the west, to accept the Egyptian proposal for a permanent ceasefire.

Earlier, al-Jazeera reported unconfirmed initial details of a long-term agreement, which al-Rishq said amounted to “misinformation and confusion”:

1. The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings will be opened permanently, with building materials allowed to enter under international supervision.

2. The area allowed for fishing in Gaza waters will be expanded from 6 to 9 miles, and then to 12 miles (as Hamas demanded) within 6 months.

3. Gaza’s electrical crisis will be solved within a year.

4. An agreement was reached in principle to build a seaport in Gaza, a matter to be discussed in a month.

5. The release of Palestinian prisoners will be discussed one month from the signing of the agreement.

Israel has vowed that Hamas will make no gains in the long-term ceasefire talks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday: “We destroyed tunnels. We hit hundreds of terrorists. We thwarted the rockets it had accumulated. And we prevented attacks on Israel civilian targets… If Hamas thinks its defeat on the battlefield will be papered over by a victory at the negotiating table it is mistaken,” he said.

Visiting an Israeli Navy base in Ashdod on Monday night, Netanyahu warned 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 Israel Defense Forces is gearing up for a very forceful response if the fire resumes,” he said.

He added: “In the stormy Middle East, one needs a combination of strength and patience. The IDF has considerable strength and the Eternal People has proven that it does not fear a long road. It could yet take time and one must be patient and determined. The combination of persistence and strength will assist us in achieving the goal of this operation — quiet and security for all Israelis.”

Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said: “Operation Protective Edge is not over. As we promised, we will not stop until we bring quiet and security. We are prepared for the results of the discussions in Cairo, whether it brings quiet or if someone tries to challenge us with escalation. The IDF is prepared and ready to respond strongly to any development. Hamas will not drag us into a war of attrition and, if it tries, it will be struck very hard.”

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