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General
Israel accepts Egypt’s new Gaza cease-fire proposal
11-08-2014

CAIRO: Israel and the Hamas militant group on Sunday accepted a renewed Egyptian cease-fire proposal, clearing the way for the resumption of talks on a long-term truce meant to end a month of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.

The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation. A similar 72-hour truce last week collapsed in renewed violence over the weekend.

In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the truce would take effect at midnight (2101 GMT) and would create the atmosphere to resume humanitarian aid to the battered Gaza Strip and allow for indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

Hamas is seeking an end to a painful Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.

Palestinian negotiators, who had been meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend, said early Sunday that they accepted the proposal. Later Sunday, Israeli officials announced their agreement.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said an Israeli delegation would head to Cairo on Monday if the truce held overnight.

Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin on Monday morning.

“We are going to engage in serious talks in the 72 hours to end the blockade and deliver humanitarian materials into Gaza with the hope of reaching a lasting cease-fire,” he said. The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called “the reason for the war.”

The Egyptian-mediated talks are aimed at reaching a long-term arrangement following the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007.

In nearly a month of fighting, more than 1,900 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Nearly 10,000 were wounded and thousands of homes were destroyed. Sixty-seven people were killed on the Israeli side, including three civilians.

The fighting ended in a 72-hour cease-fire last Tuesday, during which Egypt had hoped to mediate a long-term deal. But when the three-day window 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.

The Israeli military reported some 30 rocket attacks out of Gaza, while Palestinian medical officials said seven people were killed in Israeli airstrikes, all on Sunday. Among the dead was the bodyguard of a Hamas leader, the medical officials said.

Israel had walked away from cease-fire talks over the weekend, after militants resumed their rocket fire. “Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Sunday, warning that his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

Last week’s talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas’ maximalist demand for a complete end to the blockade. Israel says the closure is a necessary security measure, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.