Palestinian Negotiators Say Willing to Accept 72-hour Truce

Palestinians to remain in Cairo until Monday, despite ultimatum to Israel, Egypt's MENA news agency; Palestinian team earlier said it would leave unless Israel dropped pre-conditions and appeared in Cairo.

Palestinian men inspect destruction in Gaza City.
Palestinian men inspect destruction in Gaza City on August 6, 2014 while Israeli and Palestinian delegations meet for truce talks in Cairo. AFP

Palestinian negotiators in Cairo say they have accepted an Egyptian proposal for a new, three-day cease-fire with Israel.The decision aims to clear the way for renewed negotiations with Israel on a long-term truce arrangement in the Gaza Strip.

"We are here to look for an agreement. We cannot have an agreement without talks, so we accepted an Egyptian proposal to have a cease-fire for 72 hours in order to resume the talks," said a Palestinian negotiator. There was no immediate response from Israel.

Egypt's state MENA news agency reported earlier that Palestinian negotiators would remain in Cairo for an urgent meeting with the Arab League on Monday to discuss the Gaza crisis. The report came after the Palestinian team's repeated declarations that it was likely to abandon Egyptian-mediated talks and return home for "consultations" unless Israel agreed to return to the table Sunday without pre-conditions.

Israel has said it will not take part in truce talks while violence is ongoing. Palestinian factions in Cairo for the negotiations declined to extend a 72-hour ceasefire that expired on Friday, saying Israel had refused to accept demands including an end to the blockade of Gaza and the opening of a seaport.

The head of the Palestinian delegation to the cease-fire talks in Cairo, Azzam al-Ahmed , said on Sunday morning that the Palestinian delegation would return home for “consultations” unless Israel submitted its response to the Palestinians’ demands by later in the day.

The head of the Palestinian delegation to the cease-fire talks in Cairo, Azzam al-Ahmed met Sunday morning with Egyptian intelligence chief Mohamed al-Tuhami. He said that the Palestinians "reject" preconditions set by Israel for the continuation of the talks, the main issue stipulated a halt in fire before resuming negotiations. “We reject this precondition,” al-Ahmed said, adding that Egypt agreed - contrary to its previous stance – that talks should continue even amid fighting.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshal’s deputy's deputy Mousa Abu Marzook said earlier Sunday that he believed Israel would hand over its response to the Palestinians’ demands by evening, and that the delegation would not need make good on its threat to go back home.

Abu Marzook said that so far, the delegation has received no information about the resumption of the talks, while Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he believed that the talks did not have much chance of succeeding.

Egyptian sources said that while the Palestinians had agreed to postpone the discussion on the creation of a seaport and airport in Gaza to a later, unnamed date, they still insisted on the opening of the overland border crossings between Gaza and Israel and the West Bank, and were willing to discuss the conditions for opening the Rafiah crossing as a separate issue from the talks with Israel.

Egypt’s stance is that opening the Rafah crossing has nothing to do with the cease-fire talks and that it is an issue between the Palestinians and Egypt in which Israel has no status. However, Egypt insists that representatives of the new Palestinian government, and not of Hamas, be the ones to run the crossing.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian army is continuing to operate in the border region between Gaza and Sinai, and according to Egyptian reports, it has destroyed another 20 tunnels in the Rafah area and killed 60 radical Islamist operatives. The Egyptian army has destroyed 1,659 tunnels so far.