Palestinians agree new Egyptian ceasefire proposal

Cairo awaits Israeli response as attacks from both sides continue

Palestinians inspect a destroyed car after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Mohammed Saber

Palestinians inspect a destroyed car after Israeli air strikes in Gaza City yesterday. Photograph: EPA/Mohammed Saber

Tue, Aug 26, 2014, 01:09

Islamic Jihad, Hamas and other Palestinian armed factions yesterday accepted a new Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire in Gaza with the aim of ending 50 days of warfare.

While Cairo awaited Israel’s response, scores of missiles struck communities close to the Gaza border and Israel continued air attacks on Gazan targets, killing 12 Palestinians. Previous ceasefires have been preceded by a spike in missile firing.

Palestinian foreign minister Riad al-Malki said the Egyptian proposal was “the only solution” and said that If Israel did not agree, the Palestinians would appeal to the UN Security Council.

Appeal to Obama

Hamas political chief Khaled Mishaal, who has said that Hamas is ready to accept a ceasefire, appealed to President Barack Obama, “as the leader of the most powerful state in the world”, to halt Israel’s “aggression on Gaza, lift the siege, open the border crossings, and rebuild Gaza”.

Egypt’s proposal is for a month-long truce and the opening of the Egypt-Gaza border to Gazans seeking to enter and leave the strip and of the Israeli goods crossing for entry of humanitarian supplies and construction materials. Israel would expand fishing limits for Gaza’s small fleet from three to 12 nautical miles from shore. Saudi Arabia has, reportedly, offered to guarantee the deal.

Negotiations on other issues in dispute would be postponed. These include the full lifting of the Israeli siege and blockade of Gaza, release of Palestinian prisoners and the repatriation of the bodies of two slain Israeli soldiers. Reconstruction of Gaza’s airport and the building of a port would be postponed.

After discussions with Egyptian president Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, his Palestinian counterpart, Mahmoud Abbas, stated: “We must first stop the bloodshed and then address the provision of humanitarian aid to the strip. We must also start Gaza’s reconstruction immediately once the ceasefire is in place.”

Opinion poll

An opinion poll showed 88 per cent of Gazans favour a long-term ceasefire with Israel and another 10 per cent back a medium-term truce, but 93 per cent oppose the disarming of Palestinian fighters, a demand put forward by Israel. Indicating a high level of support for Hamas and its allies, 90 per cent thought Palestinian militants were “well prepared” or “somewhat prepared” for the Israeli campaign.

The poll result exerts pressure on the political and military leaderships of Hamas and its allies to accept the Egyptian proposal while the Israeli government is facing appeals by residents of communities on the Gaza border to agree to a truce. Some 70 per cent of their inhabitants have evacuated while another 20 per cent or residents of communities further from Gaza have also departed.

Meanwhile, Israel has continued its campaign against Palestinian military figures, killing three members of the Islamic Army, a Hamas affiliate. Israeli aircraft also struck four houses in Beit Lahiya, killing two women and a girl. A Hamas officer is said to have lived in one of the houses. The death toll stands at 2,132 Palestinians, 73 per cent of them civilians; 68 dead in Israel, four of them civilians.