Israel, Palestinians Still Far Apart As Truce Nears End
With the clock ticking on the expiration of the latest cease-fire in Gaza, representatives of Israel and Hamas resumed talks in Cairo today but appeared divided over an Egyptian proposal to ease the closing of the territory.
As NPR's Jackie Northam reports from Jerusalem, at the heart of the talks is the seven-year blockade of the Gaza Strip. "Hamas is demanding a full lifting of the blockade; Israel says it's only willing to ease some restrictions, allowing easier passage of goods and people in and out of Gaza."
The cease-fire, already extended by five days after its initial 72 hours, is set to expire at midnight Monday in Israel (5 p.m. ET).
The Associated Press says "a range of outcomes [remains] possible, including a return to fighting that has brought great devastation to Gaza, an unofficial understanding that falls short of a formal negotiated deal or yet another extension in negotiations."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reiterated his country's longstanding position of no long-term cease-fire unless security measures are met.
"The Israeli delegation in Cairo is acting with a very clear mandate to stand firmly on Israel's security needs," Netanyahu told ministers at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, according to Al-Jazeera.
"In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the Palestinians would not back down from their demands, central of which is a lifting of Israel's seven-year blockade on the enclave, and that the outcome of the talks was in Israel's hands.
" 'We are committed to achieving the Palestinian demands, and there is no way back from this. All these demands are basic human rights that do not need this battle or these negotiations,' Abu Zuhri told the AFP news agency.
" 'The ball is in the Israeli occupation's court.' "