Long-time Gaza truce uncertain

Blockade must go first, Hamas firm

08 August 2014 BBC Online

Palestinian and Israeli officials are continuing indirect talks in Cairo on a long-term truce in Gaza as the three-day ceasefire enters its last 24 hours.Israeli officials say they are willing to extend the ceasefire before it expires on Friday morning.But Hamas, which controls Gaza, says there is no agreement and there is a big gap between the sides' positions.Four weeks of fierce fighting between Israeli forces and Hamas in Gaza claimed more than 1,900 lives.UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon demanded an end to what he called the "senseless cycle of suffering" on Wednesday.Egyptian officials, who brokered the 72-hour ceasefire that began on Tuesday, were working against the clock on Thursday to persuade both sides to agree a long-term deal."Indirect talks are ongoing and we still have today to secure this," an Egyptian official told Reuters news agency when asked whether the truce was likely to be extended beyond 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on Friday.Israeli officials said they had expressed their readiness to "extend the truce under its current terms". But the deputy political leader of Hamas, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said: "There is no agreement."The two sides have very different demands. The Palestinian delegation wants Israel to end its restrictions on Gaza but Israel wants Hamas and other militants groups to give up their weapons for good.The BBC's Sally Nabil in Cairo says the main Israeli demand for a long-term agreement is the demilitarisation of Gaza. That is highly unlikely to be accepted by Hamas, which considers itself a resistance movement and refuses to lay down its arms, she adds.Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are meanwhile demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza and the freeing of prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011 who were recently re-arrested. So far, there has been no response from the Israelis, our correspondent says."Nobody accepts demilitarisation of the weapons in Gaza while the Israeli occupation is continuing and the siege on Gaza is continuing, and the crimes against our people are continuing," Palestinian official Wasel Abu Yousef told the Associated Press.Palestinian officials say at least 1,867 people have been killed since Israel launched offensive on 8 July against Gaza.The UN says 1,354 of those who died were civilians, including 415 children and 214 women.

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