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Gaza truce extended for 24 hours

Ahram Online, AFP , Monday 18 Aug 2014
A Palestinian looks at his family's food factory, which witnesses said was shelled and torched by the Israeli army during the offensive, in Deri al Balah in central Gaza Strip August 14, 2014. (Photo:Reuters)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators agreed on Monday to extend a temporary ceasefire in Gaza by 24 hours to conduct more talks on a long-term truce, Egypt and a Palestinian official said.

Hamas confirmed the extension, but blamed Israeli "obstinacy" in the gruelling negotiations.

A previous five-day ceasefire expired at midnight local time (2100 GMT).

"Both sides have agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire," the official with the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said.

The official Egyptian MENA news agency later quoted an "official Egyptian statement" confirming the ceasefire's extension.

The negotiations centre on an Egyptian proposal that meets some of the Palestinian demands, such as easing the blockade of Gaza, but defer other stumbling blocks to later negotiations.

Hamas had repeatedly warned it would not extend the ceasefire, pressing for immediate gains that would allow it to claim concessions from Israel after the month-long Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip.

"The negotiations have faced difficulties because of the occupation's obstinacy, and the 24-hour (extension) came as a result of a request by the mediators to have another chance," senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq wrote on Twitter.

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.

The Palestinian ambassador in Egypt announced that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will arrive in Cairo on Friday for a two day visit, Al-Ahram's Arabic news website reported Monday.

Gamal Al-Shobky said that Abbas will meet with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi by Saturday to discuss the latest developments in Cairo's endeavours to finalise a Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire in Gaza.

Al-Shobky, the Palestinian Arab League permanent representative, noted that the bilateral meeting will also discuss a conference for the reconstruction of the war-torn coastal enclave that is expected by September in Cairo.

Israel's offensive on Gaza, which began on 8 July, has led to the death of over 2,000 Palestinians and the injury of almost 10,200 others. A total of 64 soldiers and three civilians have also been killed on the Israeli side.

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