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Israel, Palestinians pursue Gaza deal as cease-fire deadline nears
16:49, 13 August 2014, 290

AKIPRESS.COM - 33AF1C05-B1C2-4BC9-9290-5483DED1857D_w640_r1_s_cx0_cy1_cw0Talks in Cairo resumed Wednesday as the three-day truce between Israel and Gaza militants was expected to expire at midnight, so far without an agreement.

Israel’s five-member negotiating team returned from Cairo overnight following the second day of marathon discussions and headed back out Wednesday morning for the decisive stretch of talks.

According to media reports, Egyptian brokers mediating indirect talks between the parties drafted a proposal with steps to ease, but not immediately lift, the blockade on the Gaza Strip in return for a more lasting ceasefire.

Israel and the Palestinian factions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad have yet to comment officially on the apparent outline, which may or may not be finalized by deadline.

Reports on the emerging agreement suggest it would not fully satisfy either side and would not settle Hamas’ demand to discuss a seaport or Israel’s demand for demilitarizing the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli positions, as related to Hamas by Egyptian mediators, “do not meet 5% of our demands,” an unnamed Hamas official told Israel Radio. Hamas would accept international monitoring of a port and consider similar supervision of construction materials but will not “be at the mercy” of Israel and Egypt which control the crossings, he said.

Hamas might resume fighting if pushed into a corner, according to the official, who noted, however, that neither side was eager to continue the war.

Israel has signaled it would accept an extension of the truce to allow more time for a negotiated settlement but stressed talks will not be held under fire.

Israel is said to have agreed to a series of steps for easing economic conditions in Gaza, including expanding fishing grounds, reducing a buffer zone encroaching on farming land, increasing the volume of trucks transporting goods through the Kerem Shalom cargo crossing and also increasing permits for entering Israel through the Erez Crossing.

Reportedly, remaining sticking points include the exact mechanism for allowing money into the Gaza strip to pay tens of thousands of employees of Hamas-run offices who have not received wages in many months. Terms of returning the remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the recent fighting and Hamas demands for the release of prisoners also remain unresolved.


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