Smoke rises after an explosion in a smuggling tunnel along the borders between Rafah and Egypt, in the southern Gaza Strip April 8, 2011. (Photo:Reuters)
Israel warned on Sunday it would not countenance any long-term truce deal that did not answer its security needs as Gaza ceasefire talks resumed in Cairo.
Egyptian-brokered indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are taking place during a five-day lull in the fighting which is due to expire at midnight (2100 GMT) on Monday.
The Palestinian delegation officially presented its demands for a permanent ceasefire last week, which included an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, halting airstrikes, lifting the Israeli blockade on the coastal strip, establishment of an airport and seaport and releasing Palestinian prisoners.
In a press statement, Egypt's foreign ministry declared late Wednesday the extension of the truce between Israel and Palestinian factions for another five days. Two three-day truces were sponsored by Egypt prior to current one.
"The five-day ceasefire aims to provide more time to resume the indirect talks in Cairo and reach a comprehensive and permanent agreement through negotiating over the issues that matter to the Palestinian people," the statement said.
Leader of the delegation, Azzam Al-Ahmed of Fatah, spoke of amending the truce from three to five days – along with other details – during his Wednesday press briefing.
"After Egypt revealed a new 72-hour truce, the Israelis called the Egyptian officials and told them that Saturday is a day off for them, and we told the Egyptian side about the same issue as well,” MENA quoted the Fatah leader as saying.
"We decided to expand the truce two more days because Friday and Saturday are weekend days, this way it is five days in total."
Both delegations consulted with their governments during the weekend.
In Ramallah, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas reiterated his commitment to the Egyptian proposal.
"Our goal is to stop fighting and we are committed to the Egyptian initiative and nothing else," he said.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Palestinians would not back down from their demands, central to which is a lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade.
"There is no way back from this. All these demands are basic human rights that do not need this battle or these negotiations," he told AFP.
"The only way to have security is for Palestinians to feel it first and have the blockade lifted."
But Netanyahu warned that Hamas, which he said had suffered a major military blow, would not walk away from the talks with any political success.
"If Hamas thinks it will make up for its military losses with a political achievement, it is wrong."
Talks are expected to resume on the basis of an Egyptian proposal, seen by AFP, which calls for a lasting ceasefire beyond Monday midnight, and new talks on the thorniest issues, including demands for a seaport and airport in Gaza, which will begin in a month's time.