Skip to main content

Deadline looms for Gaza truce agreement

Negotiations resume between Israel and Hamas as the 72 hour ceasefire comes to an end on Wednesday night
Gazan's used the three day ceasefire to assess the damage to their homes (AA)

Reports are emerging that Israeli Foriegn Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said that there will be no deal reached over Gaza unless the bodies of two dead Israeli soldiers are returned first, say Anadolu.  

Meanwhile, Egypt has reportedly presented a ceasefire proposal to Israel and Hamas on Wednesday morning, in an effort to mediate an agreement before the deadline ends for the latest 72 hours truce which ends Wednesday night.

By that time, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Egyptian capital must have either agreed on a permanent truce, accepted an extension or risk a resumption of more than a month of bloody fighting.

"There has been progress, but not enough to sign an agreement", a member of the Palestinian delegation told AFP after the latest round of negotiations on Tuesday, without giving further details.

Palestinian negotiator Abdel-Karim described Wednesday as a "decisive day" to determine whether the two sides would reach a deal on Gaza or not.

"All files are still open," Qais Abdel-Karim told Anadolu Agency Wednesday."We have not reached a decision on any of these files yet," he added."We have told Egyptian intermediaries that we want to reach a settlement for all issues before the current 72-hour ceasefire expires," said Abdel-Karim.

According to Haaretz, the Egyptian proposal put forward on Wednesday, is said to still leave out large areas of disagreement including a total lifting of the siege, which is one of the key demands of Hamas, and the demilitarisation of the Gaza strip, which is a key Israeli demand.

It seems that many of the other elements have been superficially agreed upon but the wording still needs to be finalised. This includes an agreement over allowing more goods into the strip, but there is a disagreement as to the exact nature of what can be allowed in.

Israel still wants restrictions on certain reconstruction materials but Hamas is insisting that materials are vital if Gaza is to be rebuilt.  

A senior Israeli official earlier told AFP there was still a long way to go to agree on an end to the conflict, which erupted on 8 July when Israel launched their military operations in Gaza.

"The negotiations are difficult and gruelling," a Palestinian official said of Monday's opening talks, which lasted almost 10 hours and which were described as "serious."

Before negotiators met Tuesday an Israeli official played down the chances of success.

"The gaps are still very wide. There has not been progress in the negotiations," he told AFP.

The teams gather in separate rooms at the headquarters of the Egyptian General Intelligence and never see each other, with mediators shuttling between them with proposals and counterproposals, a source said.

International response

In the UK on Tuesday, Business Secretary Vince Cable announced that the British government would suspend 12 arms contracts to Israel, if there is a “resumption of significant hostilities.” 

A statement from the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said that they had identified 12 arms export licenses that included the sale of equipment used by the Israeli army in Gaza. The licenses relate to military equipment including “components for military radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks.”
Cable welcomed a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza that began on Monday, but he did stress that the 12 export licenses in question would only be suspended if fighting resumed. 
“We welcome the current ceasefire in Gaza and hope that it will lead to a peaceful resolution. However, the UK Government has not been able to clarify if the export license criteria are being met. In light of that uncertainty we have taken the decision to suspend these existing export licenses in the event of a resumption of significant hostilities,” he said.

In Istanbul, a coalition of activists said on Tuesday they would send a flotilla of blockade-busting ships to Gaza by the end of 2014, four years after a similar attempt ended with a deadly raid by Israeli commandos.

"We plan to send the flotilla during 2014," the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, comprising activists from at least 10 countries, said in a statement.

It did not give a specific date or an estimate on how many vessels or people would participate.

In a sign that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is facing domestic political battles in selling any deal to his fractious coalition government, he called off a planned meeting of his security cabinet on Tuesday.

Instead, he invited key ministers, mainly hawks, for private meetings, Israeli media reported.

Poised to resume fire

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that without a reasonable outcome to the talks, there could be another ground operation in Gaza.

"Either there will be a reasonable resolution of the situation in Gaza, or, if the fire resumes, we will have to consider... an expansion on the ground, overthrowing the Hamas authorities and the demilitarisation of Gaza by ourselves," Steinitz told army radio.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid told AFP he was pushing for an international conference on Gaza's future that would involve regional players as well as Washington, the European Union and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.

"We think that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas should take control of Gaza and be active in its reconstruction," the minister told AFP.

Palestinian negotiators have expressed a willingness to see the PA assume responsibility for Gaza's reconstruction and implement any deal signed in Cairo.

Israel has no direct dealings with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Anger at UN probe team

Meanwhile, Israel lashed out after the UN Human Rights Council named experts who would be involved in an inquiry into its Gaza campaign.

Canadian international lawyer William Schabas, who will head the commission, is widely regarded as being hostile to Israel over reported calls to haul Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court.

"This commission's anti-Israeli conclusions have already been written, all it needs is a signature," railed foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor.

Schabas denies being anti-Israel.

Speaking in Caracas, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said Tuesday the UN probe would prove Israel committed war crimes and violated humanitarian law during its Gaza offensive.

"We are going to cooperate with this commission when it arrives in Palestine," he added.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.