Agreeing to More Talks in Egypt, Israelis and Palestinians Begin Latest Cease-Fire

Agreeing to More Talks in Egypt, Israelis and Palestinians Begin Latest Cease-Fire



August 10, 2014


JERUSALEM — Israeli and Palestinian negotiators on Sunday accepted Egypt’s proposal for a new 72-hour cease-fire in the Gaza fighting, which began one minute after midnight on Monday, and agreed to resume Egyptian-mediated negotiations toward a more durable solution.

But several previous cease-fires have collapsed or expired, followed by renewed fighting, and it was not immediately clear whether the sides had moved nearer to an agreement on the contested issues.

The Palestinian negotiators have remained in Cairo since the last cease-fire expired on Friday. As that truce ended, Hamas, the Islamic group that dominates Gaza, fired barrages of rockets into Israel, prompting Israel to resume its airstrikes.

Sunday’s hostilities, which left at least seven Palestinians dead, continued almost to the last minute. Just before midnight, like a grand finale, more rockets soared out of Gaza into southern Israel and one fell into the sea near Tel Aviv. Hamas’s military wing claimed responsibility; the Israeli police said the rockets caused no injuries.

An Israeli official said the Israeli delegation, which left Cairo on Friday morning, would return on Monday if the cease-fire held overnight but warned that Israel would not negotiate under fire.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the new lull was intended to facilitate the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the repair of essential infrastructure, and to allow a window for the resumption of “indirect, immediate and continuous negotiations” for a lasting cease-fire.

But members of the Palestinian delegation expressed frustration earlier Sunday over what they said was an emphasis by the Egyptian mediators and the Israelis on winning a cease-fire at the expense of longer-term solutions that would end the isolation of Gaza. One of Hamas’s central demands is a complete lifting of the blockade of Gaza and the free movement of people and goods through its border crossings with Israel and Egypt. Hamas has also demanded the construction of a seaport and the reconstruction of Gaza’s airport.

Israel, for its part, wants to see Hamas come out of the negotiation process weakened and without any obvious rewards.

“The day after should be based, on the one hand, on providing for the economic and social needs of the people of Gaza, without strengthening Hamas,” said Tzipi Livni, a moderate Israeli minister who has pushed for a permanent peace deal with the West Bank Palestinian leadership. But, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem on Sunday, Ms. Livni said any Gaza solution should also be based on Israel’s security concerns, and she called for a mechanism to prevent Hamas from rearming, which is now also an Egyptian interest, and the eventual demilitarization of Gaza.

Ms. Livni ruled out any immediate movement on a Gaza seaport or the airport, saying those were issues to be negotiated as part of a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization to establish an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.

Azzam al-Ahmad, the leader of the Palestinian delegation to the talks, implored the Israelis not to “waste the time” during the negotiations and the lull in the fighting — especially, he said, because the Palestinians had made “absolutely no new demands,” but rather, he asserted, were asking the Israelis to honor various past agreements.

“The 72-hour cease-fire should be used to achieve a complete agreement, to stabilize the cease-fire and to stop stalling and procrastinating,” he said.

Qais Abdel-Karim of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, one of the factions attending the talks, said it would be a “farce” for the Palestinian delegation to return with a truce and little else, given the high civilian death toll and the devastation in Gaza.

“People have been suffering and tolerating all that with the hope that this will lead to the relaxation of lifting of the blockade,” Mr. Abdel-Karim said.

But Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy who specializes in Arab affairs, said Hamas was “reaching a point where they realize they are not going to have any gains.”

Instead, Mr. Yaari said, the deal would probably be based on “a major package” for the reconstruction of Gaza that would be “for the benefit of the Gaza population,” with projects channeled as much as possible through the West Bank leadership.

“I think Hamas has been impressed — to its detriment — by the solidity of the Egyptian-Israeli position,” Mr. Yaari added.

Palestinian militants and the Israeli military exchanged blows through Sunday, but on a much smaller scale than the fierce fighting of the past month, which claimed more than 1,900 Palestinian lives — a majority of them probably civilians — and killed 67, mostly soldiers, on the Israeli side.

The Israeli military said it struck about 40 targets in Gaza throughout the day, including what it described as 11 “terror squads,” some of whom were preparing to fire rockets. At least seven Palestinians were killed in the strikes, including four who were hit on Sunday evening. Three of those were killed in an airstrike aimed at a motorcycle in Khan Younis and one was killed in a strike that hit agricultural land near Jabaliya, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

More than 40 rockets were fired at Israel on Sunday, the military added. Several were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome antimissile defense system, and most fell on open ground, causing no injuries. Israel temporarily closed its main goods crossing into Gaza after at least two rockets landed in the compound.

In the West Bank, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was killed Sunday by Israeli soldiers during a protest near Hebron. The Israeli military said that the soldiers had been responding to protesters who were throwing rocks and that the shooting was being investigated. A relative said the boy had not been involved in the protest.

Copyright 2014 The New York Times

Featured Image: Palestinian women grieved for Mohammed al-Anati, a boy who was killed in clashes with Israeli troops, at the Al-Fawwar refugee camp near the West Bank town of Hebron on Sunday. CreditNasser Shiyoukhi/Associated Press


Follow us:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusyoutubemailby feather
Share this:
Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailby feather