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Fresh talks begin as 72-hour Gaza truce brings calm

By Staff Reporter

Israeli and Palestinian delegations yesterday resumed their indirect negotiations under Egyptian auspices aimed at forging a lasting ceasefire to end the Gaza war.

The talks came as a new 72-hour truce brought calm to the crowded coastal enclave.

There were warnings from both sides as the contacts between the bitter enemies, who are not meeting face-to-face, restarted, with the Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warning they are “the last chance” to reach a ceasefire.

The Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said the negotiations would need to make clear that Hamas has been defeated, a result that Israel fell short of achieving on the battlefield because of wariness of the costs of an all-out reoccupation.

The opening positions of the two sides were mutually exclusive, with Israel demanding Hamas be disarmed, something the Islamist group rejects out of hand.

Hamas is demanding the lifting of border curbs that have crippled the Gazan economy, and the opening of a seaport and airport. Israel says curbs are necessary to prevent Hamas rearming and Ms Livni ruled out a Gaza seaport, saying this would amount to a “prize to an organisation that uses terror against Israel”.

As the death toll stands at 1,938 Palestinians, 64 Israeli soldiers and three citizens in Israel, the question is how ready the two sides are to reach a compromise.

Reuters reported from Gaza that residents were pinning hopes on this truce lasting, with shops beginning to open as some displaced families returned. But Yitzhak Aharonovich, the Israeli Public Security Minister said that “chances of an agreement are low”.

However, some analysts took a more optimistic view. Yossi Alpher, former director of the Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies in Tel Aviv, said: “There is a better than 50% chance there will be an agreement. A package can be put together that allows each side to say it achieved a good portion of its demands.”

Meanwhile, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is moving closer to joining the International Criminal Court (ICC).

This would make it possible for Israelis to be prosecuted over alleged war crimes during Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, Palestinian officials say.

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