Time running out on Gaza cease-fire between Israel and Hamas
Less than a day remains of a temporary cease-fire in Gaza.
Indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian officials aimed at agreeing on a more lasting end to hostilities are expected to continue Wednesday in Cairo. The truce is due to expire just after midnight local time (5 p.m. ET).
Earlier cease-fires in the Gaza conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 people in slightly over a month, have failed to last more than a few hours or days. The previous truce, which was also accompanied by talks in Cairo, unraveled last week when Palestinian militants resumed rocket fire into Israel.
It remains unclear whether the two warring parties — Israel and Hamas, the militant Islamic group that runs Gaza — will be able to reach a compromise.
The two sides aren’t even talking face to face but through Egyptian go-betweens. Israel, like the United States and European Union, labels Hamas a terrorist organization; Hamas rejects Israel’s right to exist.
Hamas is represented in Cairo by a delegation made up of multiple Palestinian factions. But the group has made its demands clear.
They say they want an end to Israel’s economic blockade on Gaza, an extension of fishing rights off the coast, the reopening of an airport and seaport, and the release of prisoners held by Israeli authorities.
For its part, Israel says it wants Hamas to disarm and Gaza to be demilitarized.
The stakes are high for the residents of Gaza, where 1,962 people have been killed in the fighting, according to the United Nations. Around 72% of the dead are estimated to be civilians.
They are also high for Israelis, who have been living in fear of the waves of rockets fired from Gaza and the militant attacks carried out through tunnels dug under the border.
Israel’s Iron dome missile defense system intercepted many of the roughly 3,500 rockets the Israeli military says have been launched from Gaza. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to send ground troops into Gaza during the conflict to destroy Hamas’ network of tunnels, resulting in intensified fighting.
Israeli officials say 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces pulled its soldiers out of Gaza last week after they had demolished around 32 tunnels, but they remain positioned around the Palestinian territory.
Aid flows into Gaza
The current lull in violence has allowed Gaza residents to try to tackle some of the most urgent problems they face, including a lack of drinking water and leaking sewage pipes.
Aid groups say the situation remains dire, with more than 300,000 people estimated to have been displaced by the fighting in the small, densely populated enclave. The thousands of people wounded in the conflict have put a severe strain on medical resources.
During the cease-dire, people have attempted to stock up on badly needed supplies, which have been allowed in through reopened border crossings.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had brought in trucks of water, hundreds of mattresses, surgical equipment, food and household items like diapers.
Among the many families sheltering in U.N. schools, some are unable to return to their homes because they were destroyed, others have been going back just for the day and returning at night to shelters. Some people feel that it is too risky to leave shelters altogether, as so many of the previous cease-fires have failed.
Residents have also taken advantage of the calm to go out into the streets and visit beaches, parks and markets.