The five-day extension of the Israel-Hamas cease-fire continued to hold on Sunday as the Egyptian-mediated talks on a more permanent truce between the sides seemed to make scarce progress.
The Israeli delegation to the negotiations returned to Cairo on Sunday morning for what seemed to be a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement. The talks were expected to continue through Monday night, when the temporary cease-fire is scheduled to end.
Egypt has reportedly put forth a “final proposal” to break the deadlock, but Palestinian sources said it’s doubtful the sides will accept its wording. Senior Israeli officials have said that should the Egyptian mediation efforts fail, Western powers will likely try to push for a UN Security Council resolution that would call for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip.
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Latest updates [Sunday]:
5:50 P.M. U.S. President Barack Obama planned a break in the middle of his vacation to return to Washington on Sunday night for unspecified meetings with Vice President Joe Biden and other advisers. Part of the decision appears aimed at countering criticism that Obama is spending two weeks on a resort island in the midst of so many foreign and domestic crises.
Yet those crises turned the first week of Obama's vacation into a working holiday. He made on-camera statements on U.S. military action in Iraq and the clashes between police and protesters in Ferguson, Missouri. He called foreign leaders to discuss the tensions between Ukraine and Russia, as well as between Israel and Hamas. (AP)
4:40 P.M. A senior Israeli official says the Israeli negotiation team is still in Cairo. "It is still unclear whether or not an agreement can be reached by tomorrow night," he says, adding that Israel intends to use the time left until the cease-fire expires to try and reach a deal.
As for the possibility of no agreement being reached by Monday's deadline, the official says that if fire from Gaza is renewed, Israel will respond with force. "If fire is not renewed and no agreement is reached," he says, "Israel will see what can be done in terms of humanitarian aid for the residents of the Gaza Strip, whom we have nothing against."
To demonstrate Israel's goodwill, the official says, for the first time since the current round of fighting in Gaza erupted, Israel lifted the fishing ban today, allowing Palestinian fishermen from Gaza to venture three nautical miles off Gaza's shore. (Barak Ravid)
11:01 A.M. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tells ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem that the delegation representing Israeli at the Cairo cease-fire talks were "operating under order to work for [Israel's] security interests."
"Only if our security needs are met will we be willing to accept the cease-fire outline," Netanyahu said. "If Hamas thinks it can cover its military loss with a political win, it is mistaken. If it thinks that raining rockets will cause us to surrender, it is mistaken."
10:20 A.M. Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz says ahead of a cabinet meeting that "a seaport or airport in Gaza would in effect be a Duty Free for missiles and rockets."
Israel "cannot cede on the demilitarization of the Strip. This is a fundamental demand," the minister adds. (Barak Ravid)
2:53 A.M. Senior Israeli officials say that if the Cairo talks fail to produce a negotiated agreement, pressure from the international community for a deal would increase. They say Britain, France and other nations are preparing a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting in Gaza, the lifting of the blockade on the Strip, the return of Palestinian Authority forces to the territory and the reintroduction of international monitors at the Gaza border crossings to prevent arms from entering the Strip. (Barak Ravid) Read full article
8:25 P.M. Offers made to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo do not meet the aspirations of the people, said Hamas' head of foreign affairs, Osama Hamdan, raising doubts about the chances of reaching a truce with Israel in the Cairo-brokered talks.
Hamdan said on his official Facebook page on Saturday: "Israel must accept the demands of the Palestinian people or face a long war."
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