Talks on ending Gaza war "difficult", but truce holds
Gaza: Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Gaza militants are "difficult", Palestinian delegates said on Tuesday, while Israeli officials said no progress had been made so far and fighting could soon resume.
As a 72-hour ceasefire held for a second day, Palestinian negotiators held fresh talks with Egyptian intelligence following a meeting on Monday that lasted nine hours.
Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip, and its allies are seeking an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the coastal Palestinian enclave.
"We are facing difficult negotiations," Hamas` leader in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said on Twitter.
An Israeli official, who declined to be named, said the gaps between the sides were big. "There is no progress in the negotiations," the official said.
Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel`s armed forces to prepare for a possible resumption of hostilities.
"I don`t know if, by midnight on Wednesday, we will reach an accommodation. I don`t know if we will need to extend negotiations. It could be that shooting will erupt again and we will again be firing at them," he said, visiting a navy base.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of the Cairo talks told Reuters, on condition of anonymity: "So far we can`t say a breakthrough has been achieved ... Twenty-four hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement."
Hamas also wants the opening of a seaport for Gaza, a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased. Neighbouring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border attacks. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild those tunnels.
The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had agreed that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank.
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