10:43 am - Thursday November 5, 2015

Israel, Hamas Talks Over Gaza Deadlocked

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Egyptian-mediated talks on a long-term deal to end the Gaza war were deadlocked Wednesday, as the final hours of a three-day cease-fire wound down.

The truce, which began Monday, is due to expire at midnight local time. A similar cease-fire ended on Friday after negotiators failed to reach a longer-term accord. Hamas resumed firing rockets at Israel, and Israeli forces retaliated.

Israel said Tuesday it was prepared to ease its economic blockade on the Gaza Strip as part of a long-term cease-fire with Hamas, but both sides said there had been scant progress toward reaching a deal during the talks in Cairo.”If there is a complete cessation of hostilities, we are of course open to a discussion of easing restrictions,” said an Israeli official who isn’t authorized to discuss the talks publicly. “The gaps are there. I can’t tell you there’s been any progress at all.”

Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior Hamas official, confirmed that the indirect talks were tough-going but described them as “serious.”The latest temporary truce would be the last, Mr. Marzouk said, adding that the talks must produce some measurable gain in easing Israel’s economic blockade on the Gaza Strip.

“The delegation must achieve the hopes of our people,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

The third major military clash between Israel and Hamas in less than six years has been the costliest. The Gaza Health Ministry on Tuesday raised the death toll in the territory to 1,951 people, as more bodies are removed from the rubble. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Tuesday that more than 300,000 people were still in temporary shelters in Gaza. The homes of at least 100,000 people have been severely damaged or destroyed, he said.

Israeli media reports said Tuesday the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had offered concessions in the Cairo talks.

The reports, citing an unnamed senior Israeli official, said that in exchange for security guarantees, Israeli negotiators had agreed to expand the Palestinian fishing zone off Gaza’s Mediterranean shore, allow more Gazans to travel to Israel and the West Bank and increase the number of cargo trucks that are allowed to enter Gaza. Israel also would permit cash to be brought into Gaza to pay the salaries of workers in the Hamas-run government. Palestinian negotiators weren’t available to confirm this account.

Israel negotiators have refused to discuss Hamas’s demands for a seaport or airport in Gaza, said the reports, quoting unnamed senior Israeli officials.

Israel wants the demilitarization of Gaza and a tighter monitoring of imports into the coastal strip to prevent goods from being used to construct tunnels and other military infrastructure by Hamas.

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