CAIRO: Israel and Palestinian factions negotiating in Cairo agreed yesterday to extend a truce for five more days to allow them to reach a lasting agreement to end the fighting in Gaza, the head of the Palestinian delegation said.
Azzam Ahmed told reporters after a day of intense talks mediated by Egyptian intelligence that the Palestinians hoped to reach a final deal in the coming weeks, with Arab and international backing.
Speaking as an existing 72-hour truce expired, he said agreement had been reached on many issues but a few key sticking points remain, involving security issues and the lifting of the blockade. He declined to give details.
Ahmed said an Israeli demand for the disarmament of Gaza after the month-long war had not been discussed. The Palestinian team expects to head to Ramallah soon for consultations with President Mahmoud Abbas, before returning to Cairo to complete the process.
Meanwhile, Israeli aircraft carried out air strikes across Gaza early today in response to Palestinian rocket fire and shortly after a new ceasefire brokered by Egypt came into effect, officials said.
An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes into the extension of a new truce, from midnight.
Israel said its military was targeting “terror sites across the Gaza Strip” in response to rocket fire. The military “remains alert and maintains a high level of preparedness with both defensive capabilities, and striking capabilities in order to address a renewed aggression and will immediately respond to any threat to Israel,” it said.
A spokeswoman for the Israeli army said Palestinian militants launched six rockets towards Israel late yesterday, four of which hit open areas and one of which was intercepted.
No rocket attacks were immediately reported after midnight.
Earlier yesterday, an ordnance blast killed five Palestinians and an Italian journalist in the northern town of Beit Lahiya as a Palestinian bomb disposal squad was trying to disable an Israeli missile. In Gaza City, a few cafes near the seafront were open as Israeli drones whined overhead.