JERUSALEM: Israel warned on Sunday it would not countenance any long-term truce deal that did not answer its security needs as Gaza ceasefire talks resumed in Cairo.
Egyptian-brokered indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are taking place during a five-day lull in the fighting which is due to expire at midnight on Monday.
The aim is to broker a long-term arrangement to halt over a month of bloody fighting which erupted on July 8 and has so far claimed 1,980 Palestinians lives and 67 on the Israeli side.
But as the Israeli team landed in Cairo, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said they would not agree to any proposal which did not offer a clear answer to Israel’s security needs.
“The Israeli delegation in Cairo is acting with a very clear mandate to stand firmly on Israel’s security needs,” said Netanyahu.
“Only if there is a clear answer to Israel’s security needs, only then will we agree to reach an understanding.” The talks began on Sunday afternoon at the headquarters of the Egyptian intelligence in the absence of four Gaza officials, among them Hamas and Islamic Jihad delegates, who were due to arrive inthe evening.
It was the first time they had sat down since Wednesday after the negotiators returned home for consultations with their respective political masters.
Cairo airport sources said the Israeli delegation arrived mid-morning from Tel Aviv, while a Palestinian team from Ramallah flew in around the same time via Amman.
Hamas’s exiled deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk arrived from Doha.
In Gaza, although millions enjoyed a weekend free of the deadly fighting, residents are now facing other battles including the struggle to cope with a chronic water shortage.
“There’s no water here and the toilets are very dirty, this is no kind of life,” said Feriel al-Zaaneen who is sheltering at a UN school and hasn’t been able to have a shower in over a month.
Israel meanwhile announced that Gaza fishermen barred from fishing since July 8, can resume their activities.
“As a sign of goodwill, Israel has allowed fishing off the Gaza Strip up to 3 nautical miles,” a government official told AFP on condition of anonymity.In Ramallah, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas reiterated his commitment to the Egyptian proposal.
“Our goal is to stop fighting and we are committed to the Egyptian initiative and nothing else,” he said.
In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Palestinians would not back down from their demands, central to which is a lifting of Israel’s eight-year blockade.
“There is no way back from this. All these demands are basic human rights that do not need this battle or these negotiations,” he said.
“The only way to have security is for Palestinians to feel it first and have the blockade lifted.” But Netanyahu warned that Hamas, which he said had suffered a major military blow, would not walk away from the talks with any political success.
“If Hamas thinks it will make up for its military losses with a political achievement, it is wrong.” With their demands seemingly irreconcilable, the Egyptian mediators have their work cut out to hammer out a deal that each side can present as some kind of achievement.
Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2014