Israel and Palestinians agree to further 72-hour ceasefire

Despite cessation, outcome of talks in Cairo is uncertain

Róisín O’Rourke holds up an image of Gaza victim Shayma al-Masri on Sunday at an event at Rosses Point, Co Sligo, to support children in Gaza. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Róisín O’Rourke holds up an image of Gaza victim Shayma al-Masri on Sunday at an event at Rosses Point, Co Sligo, to support children in Gaza. Photograph: Brian Farrell

Mon, Aug 11, 2014, 01:00

Israeli negotiators are set to return to Cairo today for talks on the Gaza crisis after an agreement was reached on a further 72-hour ceasefire timed to begin at midnight local time. While the Palestinian delegation stayed in the Egyptian capital and held consultations over the weekend with Egypt’s mediators, the Israelis left on Friday, saying they would not return to the talks while they remained under fire from Gaza.

Israel had expressed a willingness to extend the previous ceasefire but the Palestinians had rejected its renewal, arguing Israel had refused to address any of their demands for a deal to end the conflict.

On Saturday the United States, United Nations, France, Germany and Britain called on the parties to hold fire and expressed support for Egypt’s efforts to broker a deal.

Before the truce agreement, the Palestinians had agreed to stay on for today’s Arab League meeting on the crisis.

In spite of these developments the outcome of talks is uncertain, as the gulf between the sides is wide, said Islamic Jihad representative Khaled al- Batsh. For the Egyptians a ceasefire is the main concern but for the Palestinians and Israelis a post-conflict settlement is of principal importance.

Palestinian People’s Party head Bassam al-Salhi told The Irish Times: “The main question is how to end the [Israeli] blockade, allow people to move freely without restrictions, including between the West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis want never to end the blockade.”

He said Egyptian backing for Palestinian demands was not in question: whether Egypt had the power to influence Israel was the issue.

Qais Abdul Karim, of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine delegate, said there were differences between the Palestinians and Egyptians, because for each their own interests were paramount.

“Something moved today. I don’t know if [progress] will materialise. The Egyptians are doing what they can do. In my opinion they are doing their best. They are too focused on the ceasefire, although this is not in our national interest. [However,] they did not say you have to comply with a ceasefire or put pressure on us to comply.”