Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease-fire deal brokered by Egypt, in which the two sides will hold another 72-hour truce providing time for further negotiations to take place.
The breakthrough was revealed on Sunday afternoon, following renewed cross-border violence following the collapse of the last deal. More than 12 Palestinians died after Israeli airstrikes targeted Gaza over the weekend, while Hamas militants continued to fire rockets into the heartland of Israel.
Cairo negotiations have resumed Monday morning, after a four-member Israeli delegation arrived hours before. Egyptian negotiators had hoped last week's truce would mean a longer-term peace, but Hamas militants fired rockets as soon as the 72-hour ceasefire expired on Friday and Israeli launched airstrikes.
Israel has rejected Hamas' demand for an end to the blockade of the Gaza Strip, which is also enforced by Egypt. Both sides say it is to prevent arms crossing the border into the hands of Hamas' militant wing, but it also severely limits the import of building materials to repair Gaza's decimated homes and businesses.
Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian delegation member, told AP he was optimistic. "We hope to reach a deal within the 72 hours, based on ending the blockade and opening the crossings," he said.
Ihab al-Ghussein, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, told the Guardian the group wanted "a firm commitment for real negotiation". If airstrikes continued, he said "the resistance factions will judge what measures to take, what to shoot and who will shoot it. There are other means beyond rockets too."
The United Nations; humanitarian official for the Palestinian territories, James Rawley, 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.
"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."
Israel's Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has said he does not believe a long-term deal will emerge from the Cairo talks. “There is a slim chance [of] an agreement, but to my understanding after 72 hours the fire will resume and we will have to turn to the next stage, which is the decisive stage,” he told Ynet.
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