UPDATE 2: Gaza truce talks going ahead as scheduled - Egypt's FM spokesman

Ahmed Eleiba , Friday 1 Aug 2014

Ceasefire in Gaza Strip falls apart after just a few hours

Palestinian inspects the damage of a destroyed milk factory after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, Thursday, July 31, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Egyptian foreign ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said on Friday that planned ceasefire talks in Cairo between Israel and Palestinian factions had not been cancelled as per media reports.

"None of the parties has declined to attend; Egypt will be waiting for the delegations as scheduled,” he told Ahram Online by phone.

A planned 72-hour truce in the Gaza Strip fell apart just hours after it was implemented on Friday morning as both sides accused the other of instigating the violence.

Senior Hamas figure Moussa Abu-Marzouk had said that Egypt informed the Islamist movement that Israel had declined to attend the planned talks in Cairo on Friday to discuss a cessation in violence in the Gaza Strip. 

In a phone conversation with Al-Ahram Arabic news website on Friday, the deputy head of the Hamas political bureau argued that the Israeli absence from negotiations in Egypt, along with its violation of the humanitarian truce on the same day, meant the "collapse of talks."

Abu-Marzouk added that the status of the Palestinian delegation, which he said had been expected to arrive on Saturday, was now in question.

However, the office of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said the joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will travel to Cairo on Saturday for ceasefire negotiations, AFP reported.

"Abbas has formed the delegation, which will head Saturday for Cairo whatever the circumstances," his office said in a statement. 

Earlier reports suggested that Israel had withdrawn from the talks because one of its soldiers had been kidnapped.

"The Egyptians contacted Islamic Jihad and said Israel told them that a soldier has been captured," Ziad Al-Nakhala, Islamic Jihad's deputy leader, told AFP earlier on Friday. "The talks have been postponed."

The Israeli military confirmed later on Friday afternoon that an Israeli soldier had been kidnapped during operations in the Gaza Strip.

Lieutenant  Hadar Goldin, 23, from Kfar Saba,was captured by Palestinian fighters during a clash in the southern part of the territory, an Israeli military spokesman said.

"We suspect that a group of Hamas terrorists, including a suicide attacker, kidnapped 2nd.Lt. Goldin at 9:30 am and dragged him into a tunnel," the army said on its official Twitter account.

According to British broadcaster Channel 4 news, the soldier is from a British Jewish family, and is also a third cousin of Israel’s defence minister, Moshe Ya'alon.

Egypt's foreign ministry had announced earlier on Friday that Israel and the Palestinian Authority would send delegates to Cairo for truce talks after both sides agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza.

"Egypt emphasises the importance of both sides committing to the ceasefire so the negotiations can take place in a favourable atmosphere," the Egyptian foreign ministry said in a statement.

Palestinian sources had told Ahram Online that the PLO would be represented by Azzam Al-Ahmed, Maged Farag (Fatah); Maher Taher (The Popular Front); Kees Abdel Karem (Democratic Front) and Basem Al-Salhi (People's Party).

Five leading figures would have represented Hamas, including Moussa Abu Marzouq, Emad Al-Alami, Khalel Al-Hayah, Ezzat Al-Rasheq and Mohamed Nasr.

Ziad Al-Nakhala and Khaled Al-Batch would have represented Islamic Jihad.

The death toll from the Israeli offensive in Gaza has reached over 1450 Palestinians, with 5,000 homes destroyed and around a quarter of a million civilians displaced.

The enclave’s infrastructure, including its power and water supply, has also been damaged in the violence.

The temporary ceasefire, announced in a joint US-UN declaration, started at 0500 GMT on Friday but has since fallen apart.

The Islamist movement had demanded guarantees that Israel would end its eight-year blockade of Gaza before it agreed to a cessation of violence.

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