Israeli soldiers keep guard during a protest by
Palestinians against the Israeli offensive in Gaza, at
Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Israel and Palestinian factions negotiating in Cairo have
agreed to extend a truce for five more days to allow them to
reach a lasting agreement to end the fighting in Gaza, the head
of the Palestinian delegation said.
Azzam Ahmed, a senior Fatah official, told reporters after a
day of intense talks mediated by Egyptian intelligence that
the Palestinians hoped to reach a final deal in the coming
weeks, with Arab and international backing.
An Egyptian Foreign Ministry statement confirmed that a
five-day extension to the ceasefire had been agreed.
Speaking as an existing 72-hour truce expired, Ahmed said
that agreement had been reached on many issues but a few key
sticking points remain, including on security.
"I say yes, there was progress and agreement on many of the
sticking points," said Ahmed. "We hope that when we return in
five days, this will be the final period to announce an
agreement ... for a permanent ceasefire that ends the
aggression against Gaza."
The Palestinian team expects to head to Ramallah on Thursday
for consultations with Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, before
returning to Egypt on Saturday to resume talks, several
Palestinian officials said.
The Palestinians have called for an end to Israel's blockade
of Gaza, the release of prisoners and the opening of sea and
air ports as well as the expansion of fishing rights. Israel
wants Gaza militants to disarm and their tunnels to be
Ahmed said an Israeli demand for the disarmament of Gaza
after the month-long war had not been discussed.
"For the atmosphere of calm to remain, there needs to be
progress on some of the other details related to ... the
lifting of the sea and air blockade," Azzam said.
He said more progress was also needed on issues including
security and the role of the United Nations and the
international community in any agreement.
Ahmed said a donor conference to rebuild Gaza would be hosted
by Egypt, which has long sought the position of broker in
Gaza, but has struggled to bring a lasting end to the
Though he said progress had been made, all sides in the talks
have been reticent about the details and it was not clear how
much of a gap still remained between the parties.
Another member of the Palestinian delegation said all issues
remained up for discussion. An outbreak of fighting as the
truce expired raised the possibility that the new ceasefire
would collapse before it had properly begun.