Israel and Hamas are expected to sign a cease-fire agreement by the end of August, a Hamas official told the Turkish state news agency Anadolu. The source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the first stage of the deal would include a two-week trial. The deal would lift restrictions on the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip and at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the coastal enclave.
According to the source, the cease-fire would last for at least five years, and include the release of Israeli citizens Avera Mengistu and Hisham Sayed, as well as the remains of soldiers 1st Lt. Hadar Goldin and Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were killed during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
The deal also reportedly calls for the establishment of a port in Gaza. Israeli restrictions on the Kerem Shalom border terminal, Gaza's only functioning commercial crossing, would be eased following its recent closure.
An Israeli official recently said that there will be no broad regularization without the return of captured Israeli civilians and soldiers' bodies held in the Gaza Strip.
On Tuesday, Hamas Chief Ismail Haniyeh said that talks senior Hamas officials held in Gaza throughout the day with representatives from Egypt, Qatar and the UN revolved around "different means to lift the blockade" from the Gaza Strip and internal Palestinian reconciliation agreements. He added that the Hamas delegation would leave for Cairo in the coming days to discuss the issue with senior Egyptian intelligence officials.
Earlier this week, government sources from Ramallah told Haaretz that Israel and Egypt are advancing an outline for a plan to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza without the involvement of the Palestinian Authority.
A senior Palestinian official familiar with the matter said that an Israeli official recently paid a visit to Qatar to see what progress can be made for the Strip's humanitarian cause at the same time that the Egyptian intelligence chief, Abbas Kamel, was on a work visit in Washington.
Meanwhile, defense officials are recommending that Israel take steps to ease the economic situation in the Gaza Strip as part of an interim arrangement with Hamas before there is progress on negotiations on the release of Israeli soldiers' remains and Israeli civilians held by Hamas, contrary to senior politicians' position.
According to senior Israeli army officers, humanitarian projects can be advanced in Gaza that would defer any possible military confrontation between Israel and Hamas at least until the end of next year, when an Israel project to install an underground barrier along the Gaza border is completed.
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