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.
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According to a Palestinian source, 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.
Egyptian sources expressed optimism on Tuesday, saying they hoped a more permanent cease-fire agreement would be signed as early as Wednesday morning. But the Palestinian source was more cautious, saying he thought the negotiations would take at least another day, and maybe longer.
Another subject of dispute is Israel’s demand that Hamas return the bodies of two soldiers killed in Gaza, Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul. A Palestinian news site quoted one Palestinian source as saying that in exchange for the bodies, Israel is willing to release all the Hamas operatives who were freed in a 2011 exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit but then rearrested after Hamas kidnaped three Israeli teens in June.
If this report is accurate, it represents a turnabout in Israel’s position. Until now, Israel has said it will not release the Hamas operatives rearrested in June, offering instead to trade the Palestinians it arrested during the recent fighting in Gaza for the bodies.
The Palestinian report added that Egypt has suggested leaving this issue out of the truce agreement and holding separate negotiations on it after the cease-fire is signed.