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Israel, Palestinians set to resume Gaza talks in Cairo next week




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gaza-residentIsrael and a Palestinian delegation are expected to resume talks in Cairo next week over a long-term Gaza ceasefire, after Egypt reportedly extended invitations.  Egyptian-brokered open-ended truce on 26 August, which put an end to Israel’s 50-day Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza has held firm. 

However, the terms stipulated that Israel and Hamas, within a wider Palestinian delegation, would return to talks within a month in order to discuss longer-term issues regarding the Gaza Strip. Many outstanding issues remain including Israel’s request for the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and Hamas’s demand to construct an airport and sea port.

The two sides held brief indirect discussions last month and resolved to reconvene after Jewish and Muslim holidays which have now ended.  As a result, Egypt has apparently invited both sides to talks next week.  Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk told AFP: “Hamas and the Palestinian factions will take part in a session of indirect negotiations” on 27 October “at the invitation of Egypt.”  There has been no official public response from Israeli officials.

However, Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz said that Israel supports Gaza’s rehabilitation, but this must not be “taken advantage of for the building of tunnels, or manufacturing rockets, or anything else that has a military-terrorist purpose.”  Israel Radio suggested that next week’s talks will focus on providing relief for Gaza’s residents. Earlier this month, at a conference in Cairo, international donors pledged $5.4bn for Gaza’s reconstruction.

Israel’s Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that Israel would stop the entry of construction materials if they are used for terrorist activities.  Speaking during a meeting with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon as part of a five-day visit to the United States, Ya’alon said: “We want the residents of Gaza to live in dignity and prosperity, rebuild their homes and return to normal life. But, we are very worried. Just yesterday (21 October) Hamas representatives said they intend to reconstruct the infiltration tunnels,” to attack Israel.

According to the Hamas-affiliated website Arsalanet, tunnel construction has resumed, since they provide the organization, and particularly its military wing, with strategic depth.  On Sunday, the website published an extensive report on the tunnels, including meetings and conversations between digging team commanders and team members who are part of Izz ad-Din al-Qassam, Hamas military wing. According to the commander of one such team, the digging will not stop as long as security conditions allow it to continue.

The official added that Hamas militants had returned to arms smuggling through several tunnels that remain intact under the Philadelphi Route in Rafah. He said that the smuggling continued despite the Egyptian security forces more concentrated and effective efforts to stamp out the tunnels.


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