Palestinians, Israelis face Day 2 of 'gruelling' truce talks

AFP, Ahram Online , Tuesday 12 Aug 2014

Palestinian Children stand amid the ruins of their family's apartment that witnesses say was destroyed by Israeli air strikes in the Shejaia neighbourhood in Gaza City 12 August 2014. (Photo:Reuters)

Palestinian and Israeli delegations on Tuesday were to resume "gruelling" negotiations in Cairo aimed at ending the assault on Gaza as Egyptian mediators raced to narrow gaps between both parties.

In Monday's indirect talks, Israel's delegation pushed for the" disarmament of militant groups" in Gaza, a demand the Palestinians rejected outright, officials from the two sides said.

Hamas has constantly rejected the idea of disarmament. On Friday, Moussa Abu Marzouk – member of the Palestinian delegation and deputy leader of Hamas' political bureau – in a tweet described the weapons of Palestinian resistance groups as the 'sole guarantee for any reached deal'.

The fighting since early July has claimed the lives of 1,940 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

Palestinian members of the delegation said Israel had offered to ease restrictions at two of six border crossings, one for travellers and the other for goods under international monitor supervision.

"The negotiations are difficult and gruelling," one of the officials said of Monday's talks, which lasted for more than nine hours.

Negotiations were set to resume at around noon at the headquarters of Egypt's General Intelligence.

The Palestinians and Israelis sit in different rooms and never see each other, officials attending the talks said.

Egyptian mediators shuttle between the delegations with proposals and counterproposals.

A senior Israeli official told AFP on Tuesday that there had been no progress so far.

"The gaps are still very wide. There has not been progress in the negotiations," the official said, on condition of anonymity.


Attempting to keep the talks alive, Egyptian officials successfully managed to gain the approval of both sides concerning a new 72-hour ceasefire, beginning at 2100 GMT on Sunday.

The Palestinian delegation officially presented its demands for a permanent ceasefire last week including an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, halting airstrikes, lifting the Israeli blockade on the coastal strip and releasing Palestinian prisoners.

But Egyptian and Palestinian sources said on Thursday that the Palestinian factions' weapons are the major source of disagreement in the talks. The source – speaking to Al-Ahram's Arabic news website – said that Israel has called for the disarmament of Hamas and other Palestinian groups in Gaza in exchange for lifting the siege on the strip.

On Monday Secretary-General of the Arab League Nabil El-Arabi has called on the international community to act against Israel in order to immediately stop the bloodshed in the besieged Gaza Strip.

*This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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