Israeli negotiators arrive in Cairo as ceasefire holds
Iron Dome system intercepts Gaza rockets aimed at central Israel (Photo: IDF)
Israeli delegates travelled to Cairo on Monday morning after a three-day Gaza ceasefire seemed to hold overnight.
According to Israeli officials, they only agreed to meet in Egypt for negotiations after the 72-hour truce was accepted by both sides. This follows their refusals to negotiate with Hamas while under attack.
A statement released by Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which brokered the ceasefire deal, said it was necessary for “both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".
But according to a Hamas official, this is likely to be the final time they will engage in negotiations.
Izzat al-Rishq, a member of the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, said: “If we don’t reach an agreement within 72 hours, it is likely we’ll quit the negotiations and there won’t be another ceasefire.”
Meanwhile, the head United Nations humanitarian official for the Palestinian territories, James Rawley, has said Israel must lift its blockade “to allow Gaza to do what it was doing very well just 10 years ago, to trade with the outside world.”
He added: "Gaza has a tremendous potential. People are very entrepreneurial, they're well educated, they have markets abroad, in Israel and the West Bank. The blockade has to be lifted in order that Gaza can thrive."
The new truce was praised by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who expressed his “strong hope” that it might lead to a "durable ceasefire for the benefit of all civilian populations and as a starting point to address the underlying grievances on both sides."