Israel accepts fresh ceasefire

Palestinian Orthodox Christian altar boys pray during mass at the St. Porphyrios church, in Gaza City, on Sunday
Palestinian Orthodox Christian altar boys pray during mass at the St. Porphyrios church, in Gaza City, on Sunday

Israel has accepted an Egyptian proposal for a new 72-hour ceasefire with Gaza militants.

The move clears the way for the resumption of indirect talks on a long-term ceasefire arrangement in Hamas-ruled Gaza after a month of heavy fighting.

Egypt brokered a similar truce last week. But after the three-day window, militants resumed rocket fire on Israel and new fighting erupted.

Israeli officials yesterday said they accepted Egypt’s latest offer. But they said they were wary after last week’s breakdown.

In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry yesterday said the truce would take effect at midnight local time and would create the atmosphere to resume humanitarian aid to the battered Gaza Strip and allow for indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.

Hamas is seeking an end to a painful Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.

Palestinian negotiators, who had been meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend, said they accepted the proposal. Later, Israeli officials announced their agreement.

An Israeli official said an Israeli delegation would head to Cairo today if the truce held overnight.

Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin this morning.

“We are going to engage in serious talks in the 72 hours to end the blockade and deliver humanitarian materials into Gaza with the hope of reaching a lasting ceasefire,” he said. The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called “the reason for the war”.

The Egyptian-mediated talks are aimed at reaching a long-term arrangement following the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007.

In nearly a month of fighting, more than 1,900 Palestinians were killed, including hundreds of civilians. Nearly 10,000 were wounded and thousands of homes were destroyed. Sixty-seven people were killed on the Israeli side, including three civilians.

The fighting ended in a 72-hour ceasefire last Tuesday, during which Egypt had hoped to mediate a long-term deal.

But when the three-day window expired, militants resumed their rocket fire, sparking Israeli reprisals. The violence continued throughout the weekend, including a burst of fighting yesterday ahead of the expected ceasefire.