Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Gaza
militants are "difficult", Palestinian delegates say, while
Israeli officials say no progress had been made so far and
fighting could soon resume.
As a 72-hour ceasefire held for a second day, Palestinian
negotiators held fresh talks with Egyptian intelligence
following a meeting on Monday that lasted nine hours.
Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip, and
its allies are seeking an end to an Israeli and Egyptian
blockade of the coastal Palestinian enclave.
"We are facing difficult negotiations," Hamas' leader in
Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said on Twitter.
An Israeli official, who declined to be named, said the gaps
between the sides were big.
"There is no progress in the negotiations," the official
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel's armed forces to
prepare for a possible resumption of hostilities.
"I don't know if, by midnight on Wednesday, we will reach an
accommodation. I don't know if we will need to extend
negotiations. It could be that shooting will erupt again and
we will again be firing at them," he said, visiting a navy
A Palestinian official with knowledge of the Cairo talks told
Reuters, on condition of anonymity: "So far we can't say a
breakthrough has been achieved ... Twenty-four hours and we
shall see whether we have an agreement."
Hamas also wants the opening of a seaport for Gaza, a project
Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on
a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling
blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons
from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased.
Neighbouring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it
said the army had completed its main mission of destroying
more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border
attacks. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any
reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild
The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had
agreed that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by
the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas
and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the
occupied West Bank.
WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION
Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the
Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which
Israel regards as a terrorist organisation. Hamas for its
part is sworn to Israel's destruction.
In Gaza, many families have returned to areas they had been
forced to leave by the Israeli army, but some found their
homes had been shelled or bombed. Some people pitched tents,
while others spent the night in their homes if they could.
Children looked for toys in the rubble. One boy was happy to
find his bicycle, pushing it along even though the tyres had
"It is not safe yet but we miss our homes, we miss our
neighbourhood, so we come to sit with friends and chat about
our fate," said Abu Khaled Hassan, 50.
Israeli naval forces fired warning shots at a Palestinian
fishing boat which broke the naval blockade on Tuesday, the
military said. Gaza officials said no one was hurt and the
incident did not appear to threaten the truce.
A Palestinian died of wounds from the war on Tuesday, Gaza
hospital officials said, bringing to 1,939 the territory's
mostly civilian death toll since the July 8 launch of
Israel's military campaign to quell cross-border Hamas rocket
Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians.
The heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of
thousands of homes in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians
are squeezed into a narrow enclave, have drawn international
According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 displaced
people in the Gaza Strip are in emergency shelters or staying
with host families. Nearly 12,000 homes have been destroyed
or severely damaged by Israeli air strikes and heavy
In Geneva, the United Nations named an international
commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations
and war crimes by both sides during the conflict.
The commission, which will be headed by William Schabas, a
Canadian professor of international law, was hailed by Hamas
and condemned by Israel.
"Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation
committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation
(Israel) against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon
as possible," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Israel said the Human Rights Council was biased against it.
"The Human Rights Council long ago turned into the 'terrorist
rights council' and a kangaroo court, whose 'investigations'
are pre-determined," Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel's
Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.
"If any more proof were needed, the appointment of the
chairman of the panel, whose anti-Israel bias and opinions
are known to all, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot
expect justice from this body."
Schabas rejected accusations of bias.
"I am not anti-Israeli. I've frequently lectured in Israel at
universities. I am a member of the editorial board of the
Israel Law Review. I wouldn't do those things if I was
anti-Israel," Schabas told Israel Radio.
"The more Israel participates in the inquiry by providing us
with specific information about targeting and selection of
targets, that will assist the commission in making more fair
and accurate judgements about proportionality."