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Gaza talks to continue in Cairo as truce holds

12 August 2014, 13:16

Cairo - A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was hold holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo.

A similar, three-day truce collapsed on Friday when militants resumed rocket fire on Israel after the sides were unable to make any headway in the Egypt-hosted talks. Hamas is seeking an end to an Israeli-Egyptian border blockade of the Gaza Strip while Israel wants Hamas to disarm.

The Israeli military said no incidents between the two sides were registered overnight — neither Hamas rocket fire at Israel nor Israeli strikes in Gaza. The monthlong Gaza war has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. In Israel, 67 people have been killed, all but three of them soldiers, officials there say.

The Israeli delegation returned to the Egyptian capital on Tuesday after a trip back to Israel.

A senior Israeli official suggested that the first day of talks had not gone well.

"The gaps between the sides are big and there is no progress in the negotiations," he said.

Last week's talks failed in part because Israel rejected Hamas' demand for a complete end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, enforced by Egypt and Israel. Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials do not want to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the impoverished territory of 1.8 million people for jobs and schooling. It has also limited the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports. Unemployment in the coastal territory is more than 50 percent.

Hamas officials have since signaled that they will have more modest goals in the current round of talks.

A member of the Palestinian delegation said that Egyptian officials told the delegation to expect "an extremely long negotiating session" on Tuesday — an indication that the talks may be about to enter a sensitive phase.

Both the Israeli official and the Palestinian delegation member spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the talks with the media.

This round of Gaza fighting — the third in six years — escalated from the abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank in June. Israel blamed the killings on Hamas and launched a massive arrest campaign, rounding up hundreds of its members in the West Bank.

Hamas and other militants then unleashed rocket fire from Gaza and Israel launched its air campaign against Gaza on July 8. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

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- AP


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