Egypt proposed a new initiative for an immediate ceasefire and an opening of the border crossings based on the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense – with an agreement to return to negotiations within a month – according to reports from early Monday.
Islamic Jihad has signaled it was prepared to proceed with the short-term truce, though Hamas official – and member of the Palestinian delegation to Cairo – Izzat al-Risheq said Sunday night that "there were no updates regarding a ceasefire. We will make an announcement pending any development."
Officials in Jerusalem were waiting for signs of developments in Cairo, signaling the Israeli delegation would return to Egypt only if there is a complete cessation of rocket and mortar fire from Gaza.
Palestinian delegation in Cairo (Photo: Reuters)
Al Jazeera quoted Palestinian officials who claimed that there has yet to be any agreement from the factions to the Egyptian offer.
Palestinian sources, including an Islamic Jihad member of the delegation in Cairo Khaled al-Batsh, said Sunday night that within a few hours Egypt would call for an immediate and ongoing ceasefire – with prior coordination from both parties.
According to the Palestinian sources, Israel would agree to a complete opening of the border crossings between Israel and Gaza for the passage of people and merchandise, allowing for the immediate start of the Strip's rehabilitation.
The Egyptian proposal includes an agreement to return to negotiations within a month to discuss difficult issues like the establishment of a seaport and an airport and the release of Palestinian security detainees.
Sources in Gaza emphasized Sunday night that the proposal had not been finalized but that the Egyptian Foreign Ministry would make an announcement "in the coming hours."
According to members of the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, the factions had expressed their consent to Egypt but Israel had not responded.
Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported that the Palestinian factions agreed to an Egyptian-mediated extended ceasefire and are awaiting a response from Israel. Deputy chief of Islamic Jihad Ziad Nakhleh said that the next few hours will determine whether a ceasefire was reached based on what was agreed to in the Cairo talks.
"We will provide the details of any accord later, if we reach an agreement," he said."
According to a report in the Turkish news agency Anatolia, Saudi Arabia was involved in the latest initiative and will provide the Palestinian factions guarantees that the blockade on the Strip would be lifted with the opening of the Rafah border crossing, if Israel maintains its obstinate position in the negotiations.
Palestinian officials told the Turkish news agency that the Saudi king, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, invested tremendous efforts to present a unified Arab position to provide the factions with the guarantees on the blockade relief, both by land and by sea.
Saudi Arabia, according to the report, presented a document calling on the Palestinian factions to cease fire and enter negotiations with Israel on the lifting of the blockade. As such, Hamas holds the key to the talks – and has yet to respond to these reports.
Attila Somfalvi contributed to this report.