Long-term Gaza deal hinges on Israeli security, says Netanyahu
Hamas rejects Egyptian proposals for accord that would see open borders, reconstruction
Reuters in Cairo
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that any deal on Gaza's future at truce talks in Cairo must be contingent on Israel's security needs, cautioning Hamas against carrying out its threat of a long war if Palestinian demands are not met.
With a five-day ceasefire due to expire late today, negotiators were to reconvene in the Egyptian capital to seek an end to five weeks of hostilities that have killed more than 2,000 people.
Both sides say gaps remain in reaching a long-term deal that would keep the peace between Israel and militant groups in the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip, and open the way for reconstruction aid to reach the battered enclave.
Hamas wants Israeli and Egyptian blockades of Gaza lifted, as well as the establishment of a seaport and airport, as part of any enduring halt to violence.
Israel, which launched its offensive on July 8 after a surge in cross-border rocket attacks by Hamas, has shown scant interest in making sweeping concessions, and has called for the disarming of militant groups in the territory of 1.8 million people.
Netanyahu, in public remarks to his cabinet, said Hamas should not underestimate Israel's resolve to battle on.
"Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings," he said.
"If Hamas thinks that through continued intermittent firing it will cause us to make concessions, it is mistaken. For as long as quiet does not return, Hamas will continue to absorb very harsh strikes."
Egyptian newspaper AlShorouk reported on an 11-point proposal that included the opening of border crossings, coordination with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the rebuilding of Gaza, the extension of the Gaza fishing zone and a Palestinian commitment to halt tunnel building into Israel.
"The Egyptian proposals for a permanent ceasefire agreement with Israel are rejected," Hamas official Izzat al-Resheq said on Saturday in a post on his personal Facebook page.
Egypt, which is mediating between the sides and, like Israel, views Hamas as a security threat, has given little detail on any progress in the talks.
"As of now, Israel has not agreed to any proposals," an Israeli official said.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in the enclave says at least 1,980 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the conflict. On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.
Tel Aviv demonstrators demand Israel start peace negotiations with the Palestinians
Thousands of Israeli supporters of peace talks with the Palestinian Authority to end the Gaza conflict have demonstrated in Tel Aviv.
Saturday night's peace protest in Yitzhak Rabin Square was the largest in Israel since it launched an offensive against Hamas on July 8, with at least 1,980 Palestinians and 67 Israelis killed in the fighting.
It was organised by the opposition left-wing Meretz party and Peace Now, a group opposed to Jewish settlement building on occupied territory, and the communist Hadash party. Police were deployed to prevent trouble with far right counter-demonstrators.
Demonstrators denounced Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government, accusing it of refusing to negotiate with Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas.
"All Netanyahu's government has done is weaken Abbas and strengthen Hamas," Meretz MP Nitzan Horowitz said. Party chief Zehava Galon called on Netanyahu to resign. "He has failed, both for security and for peace - he must go," he said. Writer David Grossman said Israel must "make peace with the Palestinian Authority and negotiate with the Palestinian unity government".