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Testy peace settles on Gaza as leaders trade demands in Cairo

Ceasefire holds but tensions in West Bank continue as man shot dead and Israeli settler police attacked
The funeral ceremony for Zakariyya al-Akra, the Palestinian man killed in the West Bank on Monday morning (AFP)

A 72-hour ceasefire that came into place early on Monday continued to hold throughout the day in the Gaza Strip and Israel, with no violations officially reported by either side.

The death toll among Gazans did continue to rise, however, as four more bodies were pulled from the rubble in the Strip.

In the West Bank, tensions also remained high. A 22-year-old man was killed in the village of Qalaban near Nablus, while an improvised explosive device went off in a car belonging to Israel’s Settlement Police Forces. Only mild damage was reported.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosion, though Hamas’ armed ring al-Qassam Brigades did publish a tweet about the news.

The Israeli military has not given any further details about the shooting near Nablus, but witnesses told AFP that the man had been wanted by Israel, and was shot dead.

Though the situation was quiet on the military front in the Gaza Strip, the suffering of civilians continued.

The Gazan Health Ministry warned that infectious diseases are likely to spread through the overcrowded UNRWA shelters, now home to almost 210,000 displaced Gazans, who are unable to return to their homes.

“The health situation in Gaza is more than the…ministry can handle,” a Health Ministry official warned.

Cairo talks

Indirect talks between Israel and a joint Palestinian delegation continued throughout Monday although both sides have stayed tight lipped about the negotiations.

Israeli Finance Minister Yair Lapid said that the current talks may lead to the opening of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, on the condition that the Palestinian side be controlled by forces from the Palestinian Authority, rather than Hamas.

He also said that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas should be placed in charge of international aid donated to rebuild the Gaza Strip.

"We have to remember that the Palestinian Authority was in charge of Gaza and is still the legal ruler of Gaza, and should be there instead of Hamas, which is a terror organisation."

Israel has demanded that al-Qassam Brigades disclose the location of the Israeli soldiers who died during the ground offensive and whose bodies have not been returned. Though Israel originally said the soldiers had been captured, they were later reported dead.

Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Israel is “making every effort” to retrieve the bodies on a diplomatic level. The al-Qassam Brigades responded to the Israeli pleas by asking them to disclose the names of all Qassam operatives being held in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The Palestinian Ministry of Prisoners’ Affairs announced on Monday that at least 26 Gazans are still being detained by the army in Israeli jails.

However, reports in Israeli military intelligence website Debkafile’s went further, saying that Israel was considering shrinking the size of its buffer zone, and would consider allowing Gaza to operate a sea port on the condition that Hamas demilitarise.

The website also alleged that Cairo sent a secret message to Israel on 9 August, stressing that Israel could not secure a favourable agreement because they had not “hit them hard enough.”