Talks on ending Gaza war 'difficult', but truce holds

GAZA/CAIRO Tue Aug 12, 2014 7:26pm EDT

1 of 12. A Palestinian boy wearing a Qassam brigades headband takes part in a rally in support of the armed Palestinian factions, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip August 12, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

GAZA/CAIRO (Reuters) - Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Gaza militants are "difficult", Palestinian delegates said on Tuesday, while Israeli officials said no progress had been made so far and fighting could soon resume.

As a 72-hour ceasefire held for a second day, Palestinian negotiators held fresh talks with Egyptian intelligence following a meeting on Monday that lasted nine hours.

Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates the Gaza Strip, and its allies are seeking an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the coastal Palestinian enclave.

"We are facing difficult negotiations," Hamas' leader in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said on Twitter.

An Israeli official, who declined to be named, said the gaps between the sides were big. "There is no progress in the negotiations," the official said.

Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon told Israel's armed forces to prepare for a possible resumption of hostilities.

"I don't know if, by midnight on Wednesday, we will reach an accommodation. I don't know if we will need to extend negotiations. It could be that shooting will erupt again and we will again be firing at them," he said, visiting a navy base.

A Palestinian official with knowledge of the Cairo talks told Reuters, on condition of anonymity: "So far we can't say a breakthrough has been achieved ... Twenty-four hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement."

Hamas also wants the opening of a seaport for Gaza, a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased. Neighboring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.

Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border attacks. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild those tunnels.

The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had agreed that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the occupied West Bank.

WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION

Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organization. Hamas for its part is sworn to Israel's destruction.

In Gaza, many families have returned to areas they had been forced to leave by the Israeli army, but some found their homes had been shelled or bombed. Some people pitched tents, while others spent the night in their homes if they could.

Children looked for toys in the rubble. One boy was happy to find his bicycle, pushing it along even though the tires had been punctured.

"It is not safe yet but we miss our homes, we miss our neighborhood, so we come to sit with friends and chat about our fate," said Abu Khaled Hassan, 50.

Israeli naval forces fired warning shots at a Palestinian fishing boat which broke the naval blockade on Tuesday, the military said. Gaza officials said no one was hurt and the incident did not appear to threaten the truce.

A Palestinian died of wounds from the war on Tuesday, Gaza hospital officials said, bringing to 1,939 the territory's mostly civilian death toll since the July 8 launch of Israel's military campaign to quell cross-border Hamas rocket fire.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians.

The heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians are squeezed into a narrow enclave, have drawn international condemnation.

According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 displaced people in the Gaza Strip are in emergency shelters or staying with host families. Nearly 12,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli air strikes and heavy shelling.

In Geneva, the United Nations named an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes by both sides during the conflict.

The commission, which will be headed by William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, was hailed by Hamas and condemned by Israel.

"Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation (Israel) against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.

Israel said the Human Rights Council was biased against it.

"The Human Rights Council long ago turned into the 'terrorist rights council' and a kangaroo court, whose 'investigations' are pre-determined," Yigal Palmor, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, said in a statement.

"If any more proof were needed, the appointment of the chairman of the panel, whose anti-Israel bias and opinions are known to all, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from this body."

Schabas rejected accusations of bias.

"I am not anti-Israeli. I've frequently lectured in Israel at universities. I am a member of the editorial board of the Israel Law Review. I wouldn't do those things if I was anti-Israel," Schabas told Israel Radio.

"The more Israel participates in the inquiry by providing us with specific information about targeting and selection of targets, that will assist the commission in making more fair and accurate judgments about proportionality."

(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich, Giles Elgood and Crispian Balmer)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (29)
AnnonReuters wrote:
To the poster above me:

You seem to have a fickle memory. What about the rockets launched into Israel on a daily basis. If Palestine focused on developing itself rather than destroying Israel, the world would be a better place for everyone.

Aug 12, 2014 5:21am EDT  --  Report as abuse
riposte wrote:
Hamas are terrorists.You cant negotiate anything with them. It is not in their DNA.

Aug 12, 2014 5:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
DilligafRouge wrote:
To Anon Reuters and others, here are some verifiable facts about the situation;

1) Israel began this conflict using the death of three teens it knew and has admitted knowing Hamas had nothing to do with. It was only after nearly two weeks of Israel murdering several palestinians, destroying homes, arresting hundreds of palestinians and BURNING A PALESTINIAN TEEN ALIVE that Hamas resumed rocket fire.

2) IDF has the exact coordinates of EVERY target it hits and thanks to the latest guided weaponry given to them by the US it hits what it aims at. These include THREE HOSPITALS (research El Wafa) , THREE UNRWA REFUGEE CAMPS, SCHOOLS, THE ONLY POWER PLANT and the ONLY WATER TREATMENT PLANT”

3) laws of proportionality dictate that if you see an enemy militant engaged in combat, you restrict your fire to that militant, you do not get to make 44% OF GAZA A NO MANS LAND land where you can kill any one you want.

4) Through the complete blockade of Gaza Israel is DENYING the entire population Gaza adequate FOOD, MEDICINE and SUPPLIES FOR BASIC SURVIVAL.
That goes beyond war crimes and approaches genocide since, with Israel opposed to a two state solution, the people of Gaza not allowed to leave and the IDF committed to making Gaza uninhabitable, what else would you call it other than a collection of war crimes and Genocide spread out over generations?

Lets look at what both sides agreed to in 2012;
Understanding Regarding Ceasefire in Gaza Strip
1. a. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.
b. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
c. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
d. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2. Implementation Mechanism:
a. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect.
b. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
c. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.

Did Hamas make efforts to stop rocket attacks on Israel? YES see this article in THE TIMES OF ISRAEL…. From June 17 2013
“Hamas has established a special force to “safeguard public order” that numbers around 600 gunmen and operates mostly along the Gaza-Israeli border…According to Israeli figures, since the end of Operation Pillar of Defense in November, some 20 rockets or mortar shells have been fired into Israel, compared to about 150 over the same period last year.”

Did Israel End the blockade and open border crossings? NO it put Gaza on a “diet” controlling and restricting all food and medicine entering Gaza creating a food crisis.

THAT is the main reason the tunnels were created.

Hamas is not calling for the destruction of Israel, it is calling for an end to the blockade and for the people of Gaza, which include indigenous Palestinian Jews as well as Muslims and Christians to be able to live their lives out from under Israel’s thumb and constant violence.

Here are confessions of Israeli soldiers about what happens in the occupied territories.
http://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/testimonies/database

Please check your facts, they are widely available from reliable sources. Just not the IDF.

Aug 12, 2014 6:09am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

Full focus