MIDDLE EAST

Israeli negotiators arrive in Egypt for talks as Gaza truce holds

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 11:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 11 August, 2014, 11:04pm

Israeli negotiators arrived in Cairo yesterday for talks on ending a month-old war in Gaza with Palestinian militants after a new 72-hour truce brokered by Egypt appeared to be holding.

The Israeli military said one rocket was launched at the Tel Aviv area before the ceasefire went into effect and may have landed in the sea. Hamas said it fired the missile.

A senior Israeli government official had said on Sunday that Israeli negotiators would return to Cairo to resume indirect talks with the Palestinians only if the truce held. A month of war has killed 1,910 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza.

The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks had flown home on Friday when the sides failed to reach a deal to prolong a previous three-day truce.

A Hamas official said on Sunday that Palestinian factions had accepted Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the negotiations would be "the last chance" for a deal.

Hamas has demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave - a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal.

Egypt's foreign ministry urged "both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".

In Gaza, shops began to open and traffic was normal as displaced families returned to the homes they had been forced to abandon during Israeli attacks, expressing hopes that this truce would last after a series of failed ceasefires.

"God knows if it is permanent," said Abu Salama, a resident of Gaza's Shejaia district, as he and his family headed home on a donkey cart.

"A truce, no truce, it is becoming like Tom and Jerry. We want a solution," he said.