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Middle East

Egypt fleshes out Hamas-Israel truce deal

Mediators began separate talks with Hamas and Israel to discuss details of the ceasefire that ended eight days of war.
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2012 23:43
Khaled Meshal, leader of Hamas, wants free movement for Gazans as part of the truce deal [Reuters]

Egyptian mediators have begun separate talks with Hamas and with Israel to flesh out details of a ceasefire agreed last week that ended eight days of fighting in the Gaza Strip.

An Egyptian official told Reuters the talks would discuss Palestinian demands for the opening of more Israeli crossings into Gaza - a move that would help end six years of blockade of the coastal enclave ruled by the Hamas movement.

He also said that Cairo would also urge both sides to cement their commitments to the ceasefire agreement.

Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Zahar told reporters on Saturday that the group wanted to see the opening of all four goods crossings with Israel that used to operate before 2006.

Only one operates at present, with a second passenger terminal reserved for the handful of Palestinians and foreigners who are allowed in and out of the territory.

Ceasefire

The Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force last Wednesday, ending hostilities between the two sides that cost the lives of 167 Palestinians and six Israelis.

Israeli soldiers shot dead a Palestinian man on Friday after he approached the Gazan "no-go" border area, apparently in the belief that under the terms of the ceasefire deal he was unable to go up to the heavily patrolled fence.

Alarmed by the prospect of the truce failing, Egypt encouraged Hamas police to be deployed along the border line to keep Gazans away and prevent further violence.

A day later Israeli troops avoided interfering when Gaza farmers neared the fence to tend to their land, and Israel also eased its restrictions at sea, permitting Gaza fishermen to head farther away from the coast than in the past three years.
However, the text of the truce stipulated that issues such as access to the borders, free movement for Gazans and the transfer of goods would be dealt with "after 24 hours".

Israeli blockade

Israel imposed restrictions on Gaza in 2006, following an election victory by Hamas. Some of the import and export limits have since been eased, but Israel still prevents a long list of goods into the territory - including many items needed for construction - arguing they could be used for the manufacture of weapons.

Israel launched its air offensive against the Gaza Strip on November 14 with the declared aim of deterring fighters from firing rockets into its territory.

In the process of targeting Hamas fighters during its latest operation: Piller of Clouds, the Israeli military has killed over 100 Palestinians, the majority of which were women and children.

The Israeli military also says its soldiers have come under increasing attack from the border area this year, including earlier this month when a jeep was hit by an anti-tank missile.

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