A three-day cease-fire in Gaza hit the midpoint on Tuesday as talks of a more permanent truce between Israel and the Palestinians appeared to be stalled.
A senior Israeli official made clear that large gaps between the sides remain to be bridged. The announcement came after it emerged on Monday that Israel has agreed during the negotiations in Cairo to ease conditions in the Gaza Strip.
A 72-hour temporary break in fighting went into effect at midnight on Sunday and was respected by both sides throughout Monday. With the cease-fire holding, the Israeli delegation to the talks retrurned to Cairo.
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Latest updates [Tuesday]:
1:36 A.M. Egypt presented a proposed cease-fire to Israel and Hamas aimed at ending the month-long war, Palestinian officials said early Wednesday after negotiators huddled for a second day of Egyptian-mediated talks meant to resolve the crisis and bring relief to the embattled Gaza Strip.
Palestinian officials told The Associated Press early Wednesday morning that Egypt's proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including the Islamic militant group Hamas' demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.
One of the Palestinian officials who spoke to AP said that according to the Egyptian proposal the blockade would be gradually eased.
He said it would stipulate that Israel would end airstrikes on militants, and a 500-meter (547-yard) buffer zone next to the Gaza and Israel frontier would be reduced over time, he said.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams retired after 10 hours of discussions and will resume the talks later Wednesday, about 12 hours before the current cease-fire is set to expire at midnight, the officials said.
It was not immediately clear if either side would accept the deal. (AP)
11:51 P.M. Disagreements over the opening of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza, including how the crossings will be supervised and what kind of merchandise will be allowed into Gaza, are among the key issues delaying the signing of a cease-fire agreement in the Gaza Strip. A Palestinian source told Haaretz that Hamas is insisting on a complete end to the blockade of Gaza rather than a mere easing of it, which he termed “a more comfortable occupation.”
The Egyptian mediators are trying to find a formula that will satisfy both Israel and Hamas. “The debate is mainly over the wording, not over the fundamental positions,” the source said. Hamas has agreed to allow representatives of the Palestinian Authority to be stationed on the Gaza side of the border crossings, but it rejects any limitations on the entry of construction materials like cement and steel, which are needed to repair the damage caused by the war. Israel, however, is concerned that Hamas would use such materials to rebuild its network of attack tunnels rather than for civilian purposes. (Zvi Bar'el) Read the full article
11:07 P.M. Israel's embassy in the U.K. published a statement in response to the U.K.'s threat to suspend arms export licenses to Israel: "Israel notes the U.K.'s decision to leave in place current criteria for arms export licenses. We share the U.K.'s hope that the current ceasefire will continue and lead to a long term solution. At the same time, should Hamas violate the current ceasefire, as it has previous ceasefires, Israel maintains the right to defend itself, a right which has been recognized and supported by the U.K. leadership. Israel regrets calls to cancel or freeze export licenses, or to condition them on a non-recurrence of hostilities. Political decisions of this nature do not reflect Hamas' responsibility as a serial violator of past cease-fires, and are unlikely to contribute to the goal of negotiating a sustainable solution to the current conflict." (Barak Ravid)
8:43 P.M. The British government has announced that if "significant hostilities" resume in Gaza, it will suspend 12 arms export licenses to Israel. Licenses that might be suspended include radar systems, combat aircraft and tanks used by the IDF in Gaza. The Iron Dome is not included. Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “No new licences of military equipment have been issued for use by the Israeli Defence Force during the review period and as a precautionary measure this approach will continue until hostilities cease.” (Barak Ravid) Read the full article
8:00 P.M. Prof. William Schabas, appointed on Monday as head of the United Nations probe into Operation Protective Web, has acknowledged in an Israeli TV interview that "there are many instances of double standards" at the international body. Schabas was asked by a Channel 2 interviewer why investigations had not been conducted into the American invasion of Iraq, the Russian attack on Chechnya and other incidents in which thousands of civilians were killed while Israel has been probed twice in six years. "The fact that there have not been investigations into certain atrocities in certain places can be explained by the political balance and the relative strengths of the players," Schabas said. "It's very regrettable, but that's the situation." Read the full article
6:42 P.M. The Defense Minister's office has announced that "the defense minister intends on assisting reserve soldiers who have devoted recent weeks to participating in Operation Protective Edge, and make life easier for them by granting them broad flexibility in various payments they are obliged to pay." (Gili Cohen)
6:21 P.M. Saudi Arabia said Tuesday that Israel must reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians if it is to survive as a nation, and criticised Muslims for being divided and failing to stop Israel's military operation. "Israel has to realize that peace is the only solution for its survival," Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the world's largest Muslim body, on the situation in the Gaza Strip.
"As we see, Israel does not shy away from taking its terror to any level, with total disregard to any laws, rules, religious edicts or humanitarian considerations to achieve its goals. "Its only objective is to uproot the Palestinian existence wherever it is," Prince Saud told the meeting in Jeddah, attended by Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah and ministers from the 56-member OIC.
The veteran foreign minister also rejected Western backing of Israel's right to defend itself against Hamas rockets. "Israel does not have a right of self-defense as an occupier. There is no rule under international law that says an occupier has a right of self-defence. For any country to take that position shows bad intentions towards the region and bad intentions towards peace in the region," Prince Saud told a news conference after the OIC meeting.
"I don't think it's fair to equate the actions of Hamas and Israel, either in scale or in substance. How can you say that Israel has a right to defend itself when it is the occupier and you do not give the same right to Hamas?"
"Would it have been possible for Israel to carry out an aggression after another, had the Islamic nation been united?" Prince Saud said. "What tempts Israel to commit its continuous crimes against the Palestinian people and Muslims as a whole is the weakness it sees in the Muslim nation due to fragmentation and divisions and the spread of sedition within it." (Reuters)
5:23 P.M. The state responded to a petition to the High Court asking to order the declaration of Operation Protective Edge as a war, and not just a military operation. The state says the petition, which would have serious financial consequences, should be rejected. Defining Protective Edge as a war would require the state to pay compensation, estimated at billions of shekels, to businesses or workers who suffered financially during the operation. (Revital Hovel)
5:15 P.M. "Operation Protective Edge is not over yet, but without a doubt, Hamas and the rest of the terrorist organizations in Gaza have suffered a hard blow," says Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon during a visit to the Israel Navy base in Ashdod. He adds, "If I totaled the hits and damage caused to them, they would exceed those caused in operations Pillar of Defense, Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War." (Gili Cohen)
4:54 P.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working to gain the support of cabinet ministers for the long-term cease-fire proposal in the Gaza Strip that is currently being negotiated by Israel and Hamas with Egyptian mediation. According to a senior Israeli official, after Netanyahu canceled the cabinet meeting that was supposed to take place today, he summoned Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Communications Minister Gilad Erdan, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett for private meetings. At the meetings, Netanyahu is likely to present the ministers with the cease-fire proposal that is being shaped, and try to convince them to support it. (Barak Ravid)
5:02 P.M. The International Tennis Federation board of directors has rejected an appeal by the Israel Tennis Association to move a September 12-14 World Group playoff match against Argentina that was meant to take place in Israel because of the conflict in Gaza. The Davis Cup match was to have been held in Tel Aviv. The board meanwhile accepted an appeal asking to move a match from the Ukraine that was submitted by Belgium. Ukraine can suggest a neutral location, SBS reported. Israel can nominate an alternative location in another country by Thursday.
2:39 P.M. The Israel Navy fired into the air after an engine boat began exiting the from the Gaza coast in the Rafah area. The IDF said that the shots were part of its distancing procedure, and that the boat returned to shore immediately thereafter. There were no injuries. The IDF has prevented Gazan boats from leaving the coast since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge. (Gili Cohen)
1:32 P.M. Turkish activists from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition said Tuesday it planned to sail to Gaza "during 2014." It did not specify how many vessels would participate, but said the flotilla was "a reflection of the growing worldwide solidarity with the Palestinian people."
It said it will also organize demonstrations in ports worldwide in coming months.
The group organized two previous flotillas, in 2010 and in 2011.During the first, Israeli forces stormed the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, killing nine people on board. The incident led to a breakdown in Turkish-Israeli relations. (AP)
12:20 P.M. William Schabas, the head of the UN commission of inquiry into war crimes in Gaza, rejects claims that he is anti-Israel in an interview with Channel 2. He further asserts that he won't let his views affect his ability to reach impartial and fair conclusions.
10:59 A.M. Palestinian sources said Tuesday that the cease-fire would likely be extended by another 72 hours, due to lack of progress on a number of issues under discussion in Cairo. The sources added, however, that if progress was not reached in the next few hours, there would be no point in extending the truce.
"The first cease-fire did not achieve anything," Hamas' deputy political leader, Moussa Abu-Marzouk said. "This cease-fire will be the second and the last." Abu Marzouk said that the talks so far were difficult, but contained "signs of seriousness." Hamas has not conceded on any of its demands, Abu Marzouk added, including the openings of border crossing and the construction of a port.
Palestinian sources said the gaps were still large, due in part to the sides' different readings of the understandings stipulated in the outline. On the issue of border crossings, for example, the Palestinians have accused Israel of trying to formalize the blockade by easing conditions but not lifting the siege. (Zvi Bar'el)
10:25 A.M. A Palestinian is moderately wounded by IDF gunfire after throwing firebombs in Qalqilyah. (Gili Cohen)
8:25 A.M. Israeli ministers are informed that a cabinet meeting on the truce talks, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, has been canceled. The announcement was made shortly after senior Israeli officials briefed the media on the gaps in the negotiations in Cairo. (Barak Ravid)
8:07 A.M. A senior Israeli official says no progress has been made in the talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the large gaps remain to be bridged between the sides. (Barak Ravid)
01:31 A.M. British-Lebanese attorney Amal Alamuddin released a statement on Monday night saying that she will not be serving on the United Nations Human Rights Commission inquiry into the war in Gaza.
"There are various reports published today stating that I have been appointed as one of the three members of the UN Commission of Inquiry for Gaza," Alamuddin said in the statement.
"I am horrified by the situation in the occupied Gaza Strip, particularly the civilian causalities that have been caused, and strongly believe that there should be an independent investigation and accountability for crimes that have been committed."
However, she said, she had decided to turn down the offer of a seat on the commission "given existing commitments—including eight ongoing cases.
"I wish my colleagues who will serve on the commission courage and strength in their endeavors."
01:03 A.M. Israel has agreed to substantially ease conditions in the Gaza Strip during the Cairo cease-fire talks, a senior official in Jerusalem said yesterday.
While no final agreement has been reached, Israel is prepared to ease conditions in a number of areas beyond those agreed to after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, Israeli officials said.The security cabinet is to meet this afternoon in the prime minister’s bureau in Jerusalem to discuss progress in the Egyptian-brokered negotiations in Cairo for a long-term stable cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinian factions.
The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks spent yesterday in Cairo and returned to Israel in the evening, at which point they reported to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon on the details of the talks. Barak Ravid, Zvi Bar'el)
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