Israel accepts Egypt’s new Gaza cease-fire proposal
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
“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.