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'Tough' Palestinian-Israeli talks to restart Tuesday

Indirect talks between Israel and Palestinian factions will resume Tuesday, with an inter-Palestinian meeting between Hamas and Fatah to also be hosted by Egypt 'within days'

Ahram Online , Sunday 21 Sep 2014
Palestinian school children walk past a destroyed building during the first day of school, in Gaza City's Shijaiyah neighborhood, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 (Photo: AP)

Egypt will host a new round of indirect talks between Palestinian and Israeli negotiators Tuesday. An Israeli source, according to Egypt's state-run MENA news agency — described Sunday the negotiations as "tough," asserting that Israel will insist on its demands.

The Tuesday meetings were originally scheduled for Wednesday, but Israel requested the change to Tuesday because the Jewish New Year starts Wednesday evening, The Jerusalem Post stated.

According to the Israeli news website, Tel Aviv will demand the disarmament of Palestinian factions, a demand persistently rejected by Palestinian negotiators, while Hamas will call for the transfer of funds for salaries, the rebuilding of Gaza's airport and seaport, and the opening of border crossings into Gaza.

Hamas deputy leader Moussa Abu Marzouk assured last Thursday that talks would restart before the end of September on post-Gaza war understandings. Abu Marzouk, who was interviewed by the Palestinian Maan news agency, said the exact date of talks was not specified, but would "definitely come before 24 September."

The leading Hamas figure pointed out that the UN will handle the issue of reconstructing the war-torn Gaza Strip in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian unity government. He added that observers and plans for the entrance of construction materials would be provided as well.

"We don't oppose any mechanism set by the United Nations," he commented on the Islamist movement's position on how construction materials will enter Gaza. Abu Marzouk said he met officials from the UN and the Palestinian Authority over the deteriorating economy in Gaza and the need for an "immediate reconstruction of the Strip that was destroyed by [Israeli] occupation forces."

Israel and Palestinian factions in late August reached an open-ended Egyptian-brokered ceasefire halting the seven-week Israeli assault on the coastal enclave that left around 2,143 Palestinians dead and more than 12,000 others injured.

Seventy persons — including 64 soldiers — were killed on the Israeli side.

Egypt's initiative — on which the truce deal was built — included opening crossings into Gaza for goods and humanitarian and food aid, along with medical supplies and material to repair water, electricity and mobile phone networks. Both sides also agreed to immediately end restrictions on Palestinian boats, in order to allow fishing and sailing activities up to six nautical miles into the Mediterranean.

According to MENA, Gazan fishermen said that "occupation forces broke the ceasefire" on 12 September after an Israeli naval ship opened fire on fishermen and forced them to return to land.

The fishermen are reportedly complaining about Israeli obstructions to their sailing and fishing activities, despite abiding by the six nautical mile limit. However, an Israeli army spokesman told Maan news agency that "several vessels deviated from the designated fishing zone."

Maan — in its report — said that the incident was the third recorded since the declaration of the truce, stating that Israeli forces had also opened fire on a fishing boat last Wednesday, after it allegedly violated the authorised fishing range. Also, four fishermen were detained near Beit Lahiya by Israeli gunboats one day earlier. Their boats were seized as well. 

In a related development, Hamas denied Tuesday knowledge about a mortar attack on Israel and said Palestinian factions are still committed to the truce. The Israeli army had earlier announced that the mortar was fired "across the border," though no damage or casualties were recorded, Reuters reported.

MENA said Saturday that Egypt will host an inter-Palestinian meeting between Fatah and Hamas within days.

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