CAIRO: Negotiators in Cairo addressed the thorny issue of the Israeli Gaza blockade last night, as the second day of a 72-hour truce neared its end. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators held a second round of indirect talks to find a durable end to the five-week confrontation.
An Israeli official said there was still a long way to go to agree an end to the conflict, which erupted on July 8 when Israel launched military operations to halt cross-border rocket fire from Gaza.
“The negotiations are difficult and gruelling,” a Palestinian official said of Monday’s opening talks, which lasted almost 10 hours and were described as “serious.” But he said yesterday’s meetings would be “the most important,” as they would tackle core issues such as eight-year blockade of Gaza. Talks opened in the afternoon and continued late into the night.
The teams gather in separate rooms at the headquarters of the Egyptian General Intelligence and never see each other, with mediators shuttling between them with proposals and counter-proposals, a source said. Hamas wants Israel to lift the blockade it imposed in 2006 before it will stop rocket attacks. Israel has said it will only facilitate Gaza’s reconstruction if the enclave is disarmed.
In a sign that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced domestic political battles to sell any deal to his fractious coalition government, he called off a planned meeting of his security cabinet and invited key ministers, mainly hawks, for private meetings. Egypt brokered the three-day truce which took effect from 2101 GMT on Monday and has urged both sides to make every effort to reach “a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire”. Both sides said they were ready to resume hostilities if talks failed again.
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said without a reasonable outcome to talks, there could be another ground operation in Gaza. Meanwhile, British laywer Amal Alamuddin declined her nomination to join a commission probing Israel’s Gaza offensive.