A girl holds a sign during a rally in Tel Aviv's Rabin
Square, to show solidarity with residents of Israel's
southern communities, who have been targeted by Palestinian
rockets and mortar salvoes. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
A new, five-day truce between Israel and Hamas appears to
be holding despite a shaky start, after both sides agreed to
give Egyptian-brokered peace negotiations in Cairo more time to
try to end the Gaza war.
The Israeli military said Gaza militants had breached the
truce by firing eight rockets at Israel shortly after
midnight. In response, Israeli fighter planes targeted
"rocket launchers and terror sites" across the enclave. No
casualties were reported and hostilities died down by dawn.
The second extension of the ceasefire, this time for five
days rather than three, has raised hopes that a longer-term
resolution to the conflict can be found, although the way
ahead remains fraught with difficulty.
A senior Hamas official who returned to Gaza from the
negotiations in Cairo said they had been tough but expressed
"There is still a real chance to clinch an agreement," Khalil
al-Hayya told reporters, saying that it depended on Israel
not "playing with language to void our demands".
"The Egyptian mediators are entering a good effort and we
wish them success in this negotiation battle."
After more than a month of intense conflict, which killed
1,945 Palestinians, many of them civilians, as well as 64
Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel, there is
little appetite on either side for a resumption of bloodshed.
Hamas and its allies want an end to the Israeli and Egyptian
blockade on Gaza. But Israel and Egypt harbour deep security
concerns about Hamas, the dominant Islamist group in the
small, Mediterranean coastal enclave, complicating any deal
on easing border restrictions.
LIFTING THE BLOCKADE?
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh told Al-Aqsa Hamas television on
Wednesday that Hamas would insist on "lifting the Gaza
blockade" and reducing restrictions on the territory's 1.8
million people's movements as a prerequisite to a "permanent
Members of the Palestinian delegation said they would return
to Cairo for more talks on Sunday.
Israel's security cabinet, which has determined the course of
the Gaza conflict, was scheduled to meet later on Thursday to
discuss the proposals being put forward by the Egyptians.
Egyptian and Palestinian sources said Israel had tentatively
agreed to relax curbs on the movement of people and goods
across the border, subject to certain conditions.
A Palestinian demand for a Gaza sea port and reconstruction
of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts with Israel has
been a stumbling block, with Israel citing security reasons
for opposing their operation.
The sides have agreed to delay discussion of any agreement on
the ports for a month, a Palestinian official said.
As part of Egypt's blueprint, Israel would expand the area
where it allows Gaza's fishermen to operate to six miles (10
km) from the shore, from three miles (5 km) at present.
EXPANDED FISHING ZONE
"It will increase gradually to no less than 12 miles in
coordination between the Palestinian Authority and Israel,"
the official said, noting that any deal is likely to foresee
an expanded role in Gaza for Western-backed Palestinian
President Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas's Fatah group, based in the occupied West Bank,
formally ended a seven-year rift with Hamas in April,
allowing the formation of a Palestinian unity government
The Egyptian plan would also reduce the size of a "no-go"
area for Palestinians on the Gaza side of the border from 300
metres (330 yards) to 100 metres, so that local farmers can
recover plots lost during security crackdowns.
Israel and Hamas have not met face-to-face in Cairo: Israel
regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a
Israel launched its military campaign on July 8 and declared
its aim was to quell cross-border rocket fire from Gaza and
destroy tunnels used by militants.
Most of the nearly 2,000 Palestinian dead have been
civilians, hospital officials in the densely populated
The heavy civilian losses and the destruction of thousands of
homes in Gaza - where the United Nations said 425,000 of a
population of 1.8 million had been displaced by the war -
have stoked international alarm.
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week, saying the
army had completed its main mission of destroying more than
30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border ambushes. It now
wants guarantees that Hamas will not use any reconstruction
supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild the tunnels.