Israel and the Palestinians have begun indirect talks in Cairo to try and end the conflict in Gaza and lift the blockade on the coastal enclave, Egypt’s state news agency MENA has said.
Egypt is acting as a go-between for the talks, which began on Monday a day after the two sides agreed to begin a new 72-hour truce.
The Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo earlier in the day for the indirect negotiations with Palestinian factions.
The Palestinian delegation was already in the Egyptian capital and locked in talks with Egyptian intelligence mediators, who will relay their demands to the Israeli negotiators, a Palestinian official told AFP news agency.
The Israeli delegation landed in Cairo in the morning, just hours after a 72-hour ceasefire came into effect.
Almost 12 hours into the truce, the skies over Gaza remained calm, with no reports of violations on any side and signs of life emerging from the war-torn coastal enclave which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians. Residents began returning to their damaged homes to see what belongings they could salvage and fishermen cast their nets out to sea.
This is the second round of indirect talks to take place in Cairo. The first failed to yield any results, and the temporary peace collapsed as the 72-hours drew to a close.
Egypt urged the warring sides to use the three-day lull to reach “a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire”, which they failed to do last week.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it would give the two sides “another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire” while stressing the importance of addressing “the underlying grievances on both sides”.
Hamas has said that any permanent agreement must include Israel lifting its eight-year blockade on Gaza.
Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat arrived in Cairo late on Sunday for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas, an airport official said.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a radio interview on Monday that disarming “Gaza militants” was crucial to sustain a long-term truce and he hoped this could be done by diplomacy rather than force.
“I certainly hope that there will be a diplomatic solution. If there will not be a diplomatic solution, I am convinced that sooner or later we will have to opt for a military solution of taking temporary control of Gaza to demilitarise it again,” he told Israel Radio.