Egypt is pressing Israel and Hamas, the terrorist organization that controls the Gaza Strip, to agree to a five-year ceasefire deal, Palestinian newspaper Al-Quds reported Wednesday, citing Palestinian officials.
Israeli TV said Sunday that there had been "significant progress” in Egypt's mediation efforts with Hamas to achieve an agreement for a sustained period of calm in Gaza, also quoting Palestinian sources.
Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which is considered very close to Hamas, said Wednesday that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Islamic Jihad leader Ziad al-Nahala had met to coordinate understandings on the removal of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, which both countries say was introduced in an effort to stymie terrorist activity emanating from the enclave.
Hamas sources confirmed last week that contacts regarding an agreement with Israel have been renewed via international mediators, primarily Egyptian intelligence officials.
Al-Akhbar reported Friday that UN special envoy to the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov was expected to meet with the Hamas leadership to finalize the terms of the agreement.
Mladenov and the Hamas leadership were to discuss the possibility of reaching a long-term settlement agreement with Israel, which would include a solution to the most pressing issues - including the two Israeli captives and bodies of two fallen IDF soldiers held by Hamas and easing the closure on the Strip.
Fresh Gaza protests
Meanwhile, Hamas on Tuesday called on Gaza residents to turn out in large numbers for a demonstration against Israel on Friday, as the often violent March of Return protests seemed set to be renewed after a three-week hiatus. The demonstrations had been paused apparently in line with Israel's request as part of the negotiations over Gaza calm.
Leaflets published by the terror group began circulating Tuesday among the residents of the coastal enclave, using images of protesters surrounded by thick black smoke.
The protest would be the first since the latest flare-up between Israel and the factions in the factions in the Strip (dubbed in Israel as Operation Black Belt). The cross-border round of fighting was sparked by the targeted killing of Islamic Jihad commander Baha Abu al-Ata in a predawn Israeli airstrike on his home.
Hamas stayed largely out of the fighting, while Islamic Jihad fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli population centers. The IDF responded with retaliatory airstrikes on the terror group's militants and infrastructure. Egyptian mediators managed to broker a truce between the two sides two days later.
Last Friday, 16-year-old Palestinian Fahed al-Astal died after he was shot in the stomach by IDF troops during an unsanctioned protest along the border fence. Four other people were wounded, Gaza officials said.
The five hurled improvised explosive devices at the IDF troops.
The protest took place despite Hamas's decision to suspend the weekly demonstration for the third consecutive week.
A member of the March of Return steering committee said after the death of the teen that Israel was responsible for the loss of life and called on protesters to turn out for a demonstration the following week.
The IDF said the claims regarding the circumstances of the boy's death would be investigated, adding that dozens of rioters had arrived the border independently, tried to sabotage the fence and threw explosives at the IDF troops there.