A Palestinian man carries a wounded woman to an emergency room at the Nasser hospital following an Israeli air strike near her home, in Khan Younis, the southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, July 24, 2014. (Photo: AP)
Egyptian and western diplomats have said a UN-brokered humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza will be put in place within the next 72 hours, despite Israel saying a truce is unlikely in the coming days.
According to the sources, who spoke to Ahram Online on condition of anonymity, representatives of "different Palestinian factions" and Israeli government officials will then meet in Egypt to negotiate a truce in the Palestinian territory where at least 738 have been killed.
The negotiations will seemingly stem from the Egyptian initiative calling for a halt to hostilities ahead of talks. It was accepted by Israel early last week, but rejected by Hamas, which spelled out conditions on easing Gaza's plight before agreeing to a ceasefire. These include ending Israel's war on Gaza, an end to the eight-year Israeli blockade of the densely populated enclave, and the release of rearrested Palestinians who were freed in a 2011 prisoner exchange but rearrested recently.
Speaking in Qatar on Wednesday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal said there would be no ceasefire before a lift of the Israeli siege of Gaza's 1.8 million people.
"Let's agree first on the demands and on implementing them, and then we can agree on the zero hour for a ceasefire," Meshaal said.
"We will not accept any proposal that does not lift the blockade... We do not desire war and we do not want it to continue, but we will not be broken by it."
If put in place, the truce will coincide with the beginning of Eid Al-Fitr, the feast that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Israel also seems to rule out chances for a lull to come into effect soon.
On Thursday, an Israel cabinet minister made it clear that a Gaza truce involving a withdrawal of Israeli ground forces from the occupied Palestinian Strip would be unlikely before next week.
"I do not see a ceasefire in the coming days where the IDF (Israel Defence Forces) leave," Science Minister Yaakov Peri, a former security chief, told the Walla news site, adding that troops needed more time to complete their alleged mission of destroying cross-border tunnels used by Gaza fighters.
He said two or three days "will not be enough to finish tackling the tunnels."
At least 32 Israeli soldiers and three civilians have died in 17 days of hostilities.
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State returned to Cairo to resume his diplomatic push for an end to the conflict after marathon talks he held with President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Jerusalem.