Gaza truce holds as talks begin on broader deal for territory

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 August, 2014, 8:09pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 August, 2014, 4:17am

A Gaza truce was holding yesterday as Egyptian mediators pursued talks with Israeli and Palestinian representatives on an enduring end to a war that has devastated the Hamas-dominated enclave.

Egypt's intelligence chief met a Palestinian delegation in Cairo a day after he conferred with Israeli representatives. The Palestinian team, led by an official from Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party, included envoys from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group. "It is still too early to talk about outcomes but we are optimistic," an Egyptian official said.

Palestinians want an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and the release of prisoners, including those Israel arrested in a June crackdown in the occupied West Bank after three Jewish students were kidnapped and killed. Israel has resisted those demands.

"For Israel the most important issue is the issue of demilitarisation. We must prevent Hamas from rearming, we must demilitarise the Gaza Strip," Mark Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said.

Israel withdrew ground forces from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday and started a 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas as a first step towards a long-term deal. Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,867 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on July 8.