No further ceasefires if Gaza peace talks fail, say Palestinians

Israeli officials predict third 72-hour ceasefire needed to finalise deal in Cairo

Wed, Aug 13, 2014, 01:00

Palestinian negotiators said yesterday the expiry of the second three-day ceasefire at midnight tonight is the deadline for a long-term deal on Gaza, and warned that if there is no agreement with Israel during this round of talks there will be no more ceasefires.

Speaking on behalf of the multiparty delegation, Hamas deputy chief Moussa Abu Marzouk said: “We are standing before a difficult peace process. The first ceasefire passed without any noteworthy achievements. This is the second and last ceasefire. The severity of the moment is clear. What’s needed is for [Israel] to concede what the Palestinians want.”

A second delegate said today’s Egyptian-mediated talks would show whether there can be an agreement or not. Israeli officials predicted a third 72- hour ceasefire would be needed to finalise a deal.

Fragile ceasefire

Both sides have declared readiness to resume the month- long conflict that has killed 1,939 Palestinians, 73 per cent of them civilians, and, in Israel, 64 soldiers and three civilians. The fragile ceasefire came under challenge yesterday when the Israeli navy shot across the bows of Palestinian fishing boats, allegedly, outside the zone defined by Israel.

While the Palestinians are prepared to grant Israel security guarantees, they demand the full lifting of siege and blockade and the construction of a port and airport that would give Gazans direct access to the world.

Israel’s offer falls far short of Palestinian demands and expectations, which have been ratcheted up by the high death toll and widespread destruction wreaked by the Israeli army in this conflict. Israel has proposed to double the number of lorryloads of goods delivered to Gaza each day, allow Gaza’s fishermen to work 12 nautical miles from shore, permit 500 Palestinians to enter Israel daily through the Erez crossing, free prisoners, sanction entry to Gaza of construction material under strict supervision and accept the transfer from the West Bank to Gaza of salaries for civil servants appointed by Hamas.

Disarmament

To end the siege, Israel demands disarmament of Hamas and demilitarisation of Gaza but Palestinian delegation member Bassam Salhi, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, dismissed this linkage.

“You can’t exchange humanitarian needs for disarmament,” he said. He and other delegates argue that Gaza’s 1.8 million people are being starved by the siege.

Addressing a meeting in Jeddah of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal urged Israel to use this opportunity to reach a settlement over Gaza: “Israel has to realise that peace is the only solution for its survival.”