Egypt Pushes for an End to Violence in Gaza

Big 5

Egypt has urged Israel and Hamas to halt hostilities in the Gaza Strip as fighting resumed on Friday after a 72-hour ceasefire expired without agreement on extending the lull.

Militants fired rockets at Israel, which responded with airstrikes, after indirect truce negotiations in Cairo mediated by Egypt reached a deadlock.

The return to hostilities appeared to be measured, however. Responsibility for the rocket fire was not claimed by Hamas but by other militant factions, and many of the Israeli strikes hit open areas, according to police in Gaza.

Five Palestinians were reported killed, and two Israelis were injured by a rocket strike.

Hamas had said earlier it would not renew the temporary ceasefire unless it obtained agreement in principle to its demands to lift a blockade on the Gaza Strip and enable the opening of a seaport there.

Israel had informed Egypt it was prepared to extend the ceasefire for an additional 72 hours, said an Israeli official who, under Israeli rules, cannot be identified.

But Hamas officials said Israeli negotiators rejected their terms for a broader truce. Those include lifting Israeli and Egyptian border closures imposed on the Gaza Strip, opening a seaport and airport, removing fishing limits off the Gaza coast, and allowing access to areas near Gaza’s border with Israel that have been declared no-go zones.

Hamas also demands the release of former prisoners re-arrested by Israel during a crackdown in the West Bank in June after the kidnapping and killing there of three Israeli teenagers. Israel blamed the abduction on Hamas, though the group did not claim responsibility.

Egyptian officials had been working to extend the three-day ceasefire to allow further truce talks.

In a veiled criticism of Hamas, the Egyptian foreign ministry said agreement had been reached on most issues and ‘some limited points remained undecided … which should have led to agreement to renew the ceasefire’.

The statement called on both sides to ‘return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and seize the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited (unresolved) points that remain, as soon as possible.’

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said although Israel had rejected the group’s demands, ‘we did not close the door and will continue with the negotiations’.

However, Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said: ‘There will not be negotiations under fire.’

The Israeli army said that since the expiration of the ceasefire at 8am local time on Friday, 57 rockets and mortar rounds had been fired at Israel, injuring two people. One rocket hit a house in the southern town of Sderot, and two were intercepted near the southern coastal city of Ashkelon, the military said.

The renewed Israeli strikes in Gaza killed a 10-year-old boy and wounded five others near a mosque in Gaza City, local health officials said, and three other people were reported killed near the town of Khan Yunis.

Source: Sky News Australia