As the end of the 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip looms closer, mediators in Cairo scramble to negotiate a continued agreement between the two sides. The ceasefire, the eighth and most successful of the month-long conflict, expires tomorrow morning at 8 a.m.
Israel has agreed to an extension of the three-day detente, while Hamas has threatened to renew rocket attacks from Gaza if its demands aren’t met by tomorrow morning, the AP reports. The militant group’s main condition is that the blockade on Gaza be lifted.
Cairo is mediating indirect talks between Israel and Hamas on extending the 72-hour cease-fire that expires Friday morning. Hamas has demanded the lifting of an Israeli and Egyptian blockade imposed on the coastal territory after the Islamic militant group seized power in 2007.
Israel has said the militants must disarm first, which al-Masri insisted was out of the question.
At a sparsely attended rally in Gaza City Thursday, Hamas official Mushir al-Masri told the crowd, “Our fingers are on the trigger, and our rockets are trained on Tel Aviv, Lod and beyond.” But most residents of Gaza, areas of which have been decimated by Israeli air strikes, would like the shelling and bloodshed to end as soon as possible—the Times of Israel reports that 90 percent of Gazans want a long-term ceasefire.
According to Reuters, mediators are cautiously optimistic about their chances, with an Egyptian offical quoted as saying, “Indirect talks are ongoing and we still have today to secure this.”
Israel withdrew all its military personnel from Gaza on Tuesday when the ceasefire began. As Ben Hartman reported then, the IDF saying they’d struck 4,762 “terror targets,” killed more than 900 Hamas gunman, and destroyed 32 Hamas tunnels.
An optimistic tone about the withdrawal was sounded by Head of the Southern Command Major General Sami Turgeman, who told reporters near the Gaza border Tuesday that the operation has dealt a serious blow to Hamas and its rocket-firing capabilities, and that the IDF had found and demolished all of their infiltration tunnels leading into Israel. He added that the operation is still not over and that troops remain along the border ready to be sent back in if the situation escalates.
Tuesday’s ceasefire offered a much-needed respite for Gazans and a glimmer of hope in the international community that after 31 days of Hamas rockets and gunmen attacks and Israeli air strikes shelling Gaza, some sort of agreement might be reached. We’ll keep you updated as the Friday deadline nears.