Israel and the Palestinians agreed late on Wednesday in Cairo to extend the cease-fire in the Gaza war by another five days, Palestinian officials announced.
- LIVE UPDATES: Operation Protective Edge, Day 38
- IDF, Hamas Duel Over Damage to Gaza Mosques
- Official: Recognition of Hamas No Barrier to Truce
- Operation Protective Edge, Day 39
Egyptian officials said earlier that the truce was extended by 72 hours.
The announcement came some 15 minutes before the earlier three-day cease-fire agreed upon by Israel and Hamas was to end at midnight, as delegations in Cairo sought a long-term truce or, failing that, an extension of the cease-fire.
As the deadline neared, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a telephone call with U.S. President Barack Obama to update him on the status of the Egyptian-brokered negotiations for a long-term arrangement.
A Western diplomat had told Haaretz last night that Hamas was likely to resume the fire at Israel from the Gaza Strip after midnight. He said the chances for extending the cease-fire beyond midnight seemed slim, as Hamas was not interested in doing so.
Two hours before the cease fire ended a rocket struck the south of Israel. The Israel Defense Forces called up additional reserve troops on Wednesday afternoon and reinforced troops along the border with the Gaza Strip.
Egyptian sources told Haaretz that despite the progress in most issues, the final wording of some of the agreements, and disagreements on other issues required more time for discussions.
“The sides understand that the progress so far is encouraging and there’s no reason to resume the military conflict,” an Egyptian official said.
The head of the Palestinian delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, had said on Wednesday morning that the next few hours were “critical” and unless an agreement were reached Wednesday, the Palestinian delegation might return for consultations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Israeli delegation to Cairo returned to Israel on Wednesday evening after continuing the talks during the day. Egypt presented a cease-fire proposal to both parties shortly after midnight Tuesday, which was aimed at ending the five-week long conflict, Palestinian officials said.
Earlier on Wednesday Netanyahu attacked the United Nation’s committee of inquiry into Operation Protective Edge, following his meeting with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is in Israel for an official visit.
“The UN Human Rights Council gives legitimacy to murderous terror organizations like Hamas and the Islamic State. Instead of checking Hamas’ attacks on Israeli civilians and the use it makes of Gaza’s residents as human shields, instead of checking the massacre carried out by Assad in Syria, or the massacre of Kurds by Islamic State members, the UN has decided to come and check Israel – the only democracy in the Middle East, a democracy that is acting in a legitimate manner to protect its citizens from murderous terror,” he said.
“The committee’s report has already been written, the head of the committee has already decided that Hamas is not a terror organization and so there is nothing for them to investigate there. First, they should visit Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, they should go to see the Islamic State, they should go to see the Syrian army, they should go and see Hamas. There, not here, they will find war crimes.”