Clock ticks down to end of Gaza truce deadline

Jerusalem - Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo will readdress the thorny issue of a ceasefire and Israel's Gaza blockade on Wednesday, as the clock ticks down to a 2100 GMT deadline ending a 72-hour truce.

By that time, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in the Egyptian capital must have either agreed on a permanent truce, accepted an extension or risk a resumption of more than a month of bloody fighting.

"There has been progress, but not enough to sign an agreement, the negotiations will resume tomorrow [Wednesday]", a member of the Palestinian delegation told AFP after the latest round of negotiations, without giving further details.

The Israelis flew back to Israel, airport officials said, for likely consultations with their government.

As Gaza's residents ventured out into the quiet to try to piece together their battered lives, negotiators held a second round of indirect talks on Tuesday aimed at finding a durable end to the five-week confrontation.

A senior Israeli official earlier told AFP there was still a long way to go to agree an end to the conflict, which erupted on 8 July when Israel launched military operations to halt cross-border rocket fire from Gaza.

"The negotiations are difficult and gruelling," a Palestinian official had said of Monday's opening talks, which lasted almost 10 hours and which were described as "serious".

Before negotiators met on Tuesday an Israeli official played down the chances of success.

"The gaps are still very wide. There has not been progress in the negotiations," he told AFP.

The teams gather in separate rooms at the headquarters of the Egyptian General Intelligence and never see each other, with mediators shuttling between them with proposals and counterproposals, a source said.

Hamas wants Israel to lift the blockade it imposed on Gaza in 2006 before it will stop rocket attacks. Israel has said it will only facilitate Gaza's reconstruction if the enclave is fully disarmed.

In Istanbul, a coalition of activists said on Tuesday they would send a flotilla of blockade-busting ships to Gaza by the end of 2014, four years after a similar attempt ended with a deadly raid by Israeli commandos.

"We plan to send the flotilla during 2014," the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, comprising activists from at least 10 countries, said in a statement.

It did not give a specific date or an estimate on how many vessels or people would participate.

In a sign that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu faced domestic political battles to sell any deal to his fractious coalition government, he called off a planned meeting of his security cabinet on Tuesday.

Instead, he invited key ministers, mainly hawks, for private meetings, Israeli media reported.

Poised to resume fire

Egypt brokered the three-day truce which took effect from 2101 GMT Monday, and has urged the warring sides to make every effort to reach "a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire".

Efforts to extend a similar 72-hour lull last week shattered after Hamas refused to hold its fire beyond the deadline, accusing Israel of rejecting a lifting of the blockade.

Both sides said they were ready to resume hostilities if the talks failed again.

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz warned that without a reasonable outcome to the talks, there could be another ground operation in Gaza.

"Either there will be a reasonable resolution of the situation in Gaza, or, if the fire resumes, we will have to consider... an expansion on the ground, overthrowing the Hamas authorities and the demilitarisation of Gaza by ourselves," Steinitz told army radio.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid told AFP he was pushing for an international conference on Gaza's future that would involve regional players as well as Washington, the European Union and Arab states such as Saudi Arabia.

"We think that Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas should take control of Gaza and be active in its reconstruction," the minister told AFP.

Palestinian negotiators have expressed a willingness to see the PA assume responsibility for Gaza's reconstruction and implement any deal signed in Cairo.

Israel has no direct dealings with Hamas, whose charter calls for the destruction of the Jewish state.

Anger at UN probe team

Meanwhile, Israel lashed out after the UN Human Rights Council named experts who would be involved in an inquiry into its Gaza campaign.

Canadian international lawyer William Schabas, who will head the commission, is widely regarded in Israel as being hostile to the Jewish state over reported calls to haul Netanyahu before the International Criminal Court.

"This commission's anti-Israeli conclusions have already been written, all it needs is a signature," railed foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor.

Schabas denies being anti-Israel.

Speaking in Caracas, Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Maliki said Tuesday the UN probe would prove Israel committed war crimes and violated humanitarian law during its Gaza offensive.

"We are going to co-operate with this commission when it arrives in Palestine," he added.

Will Homeby 2014-08-13 01:39:33 PM
This is once again a smoke screen to divert attention away from the fact that gross human right violations were committed against the occupied Palestinians of Christian and Islamic faiths by a war mongering zionist. By tainting the UN inspectors as Anti Israel will not change the fact that Nutenyahu is a war criminal
Mally Gee 2014-08-13 01:52:44 PM
If Israel is found in violation of human rights, how much more culpable is Hamas?
Rendani Nemavhidi 2014-08-13 01:57:44 PM
I pray that God Almighty will give them wisdom to realize that love is better than hatred, peace better than and brotherhood better than enmity. God bless the Middle East let peace reign and let Love Lead!
Investigative Intelligent 2014-08-13 03:19:51 PM
when Africans claim that the International Court of Justice is meant for prosecuting Africans, people think Africans exagerate things but in honesty, that fact is true. i mean if this Israeli-Palestine war was in Africa, an arrest warrant would have been issued withing 3 days of the bombings
Dietrich Berner 2014-08-13 04:11:41 PM
I have seen horrific video clips of attrkcities committed by Hamas, like slitting the throats of their own people in Gaza! What about their war crimes? Or are they justified?
Enig Ma 2014-08-13 04:33:19 PM
I sincerely hope they figure out a way to at least get long term negotiations for a permanent solution underway. I am hopeful, but not optimistic. Both sides are adamant and insist on having it their own way. Hamas insists on a single Islamic state, and an Islamic State is the most stupid idea since Crocs shoes. They should insist on democracy, but democracy and Islam are simply antonyms. Isreal insists on a Jewish State, which is fundamentally and morally not right. So, no hope of a permanent solution. A ten year truce means : " Give us ten years to prepare to kick the shait out of you" , nothing else. Perhaps Clint Warren and Raeesa should lead the negotiations as neutrals, clearly being the most balanced and restrained commentators on N24. Binte should be kept away from computers since he/she cannot even figure out the "reply to" option when commenting. Therefore Binte and Noor should act as witnesses when Clint and Raeesa's deal is signed. Raeesa should also type the documents; simply no other human being can type,copy,paste etc at the pace she does, simply incredible. Kobus van der Linde can braai for the delegates, delivering the wood, meat etc with his red tractor. Goodluck John can put on her drag and entertain the delegates, perhaps later surprise them with some pole dancing and "special treats", seeing that they all ate males. She can do the dishes the morning after. Atheitist can commence and end the proceedings with prayers.
Binte Maya 2014-08-13 05:07:52 PM
Character of note @Enig Ma!! Lol
Binte Maya 2014-08-13 05:40:32 PM
Aaagh man enig ma.. it never used to work. Leme know if it works this time because I always do click on the reply button.. oh by the way I aint using a pc.... I upgraded.hopefully it works..oh and have a good one hey!
Binte Maya 2014-08-13 05:42:41 PM
I really hope they find the peace they rightfully deserve!! Will be shattered to see the truce end with more rockets being fired...
Binte Maya 2014-08-13 05:44:52 PM
You see.. it still doesn't work. I guess technology aint 100% all the time hey.. just have to live with being called the commentator who cant click on the reply button.. aagh one of those things