Last-ditch talks underway to save Gaza truce

Mediators race against time to extend truce between Israel and Hamas expiring at 05:00 GMT on Friday.

Hamas says fighting could resume if Israel does not accept Palestinian demands [AFP]

Mediators are racing against the clock to extend a truce between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, as the three-day ceasefire enters its final hours.

Israel has said it was ready to “indefnitely” extend the 72-hour truce, due to expire at 8am local time (05:00 GMT) on Friday.

But Palestinian sources taking part in Egyptian-mediated talks in Cairo said on Friday that Palestinian factions could reject an extension of the truce under the current terms.

“Negotiations are difficult. Negotiations have not yet reached a final result,” a delegate told the Reuters news agency on Friday morning.

“A rejection of extending the truce is likely. That announcement will come from our brothers in Gaza.”

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Washington, DC, Leila Hilal, a senior fellow at the New America Foundation, said: “We could very well see a resumption of hostilities, as the parties still have a major gap between them. Hamas and the Palestinian delegation have been asking for a lifting of a seige over Gaza – the primary grievance that percipitated this round of conflict, and Israel has refused to do that unless Hamas disarms.

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“For Hamas, this is a non-starter. Meanwhile, there’s a large mediation effort underway to close that gap,” she said.

Hamas’s armed wing said it was ready to resume fighting unless Palestinian demands were met, and Israel said it would respond forcefully if attacked.

Indirect talks

“Indirect talks are ongoing and we still have today to secure this,” an Egyptian official said when asked whether the truce was likely to go beyond Friday’s deadline.

“Egypt’s aims are to stabilise and extend the truce with the agreement of both sides and to begin negotiations towards a
permanent agreement to cease fire and ease border restrictions.”

The Palestinian delegation met Egyptian intelligence officials late on Thursday. Israeli officials said Israel’s delegates would return to Cairo in the evening having briefly returned home to confer with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

After a month of bitter battles, the two sides are not talking face to face.

Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,875 Palestinians, most of them civilians. 

Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have died in the fighting that began on July 8.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies