Israel and the Palestinian terror groups in Gaza agreed Wednesday night to extend an ongoing ceasefire by another five days, even as Gaza militants fired rockets on Israel and the IAF responded with airstrikes.
At about 10 pm, two hours before the ceasefire was due to expire, Gaza terrorists fired more than five rockets at Israel. Israel responded by hitting at least four targets in Gaza.
The head of the Palestinian delegation, Azzam al-Ahmed, on Wendesday night confirmed that a new ceasefire agreement had been reached. Despite contradictory claims regarding the fate of the talks, he said, the sides wanted to give the negotiations more time and thus chose to extend the lull.
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"We have agreed on a ceasefire for five days," said al-Ahmed, noting that there had been "significant progress" in a final agreement, but that disagreements remained over the wording on security arrangements, reconstruction efforts for the Gaza Strip and the permissible fishing zone for Gazans.
The Palestinian team was expected to head to Ramallah on Thursday for consultations with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, before returning to Egypt on Saturday to resume talks, Palestinian officials said.
Egyptian sources said that, "We need more time in order to reach an agreement. Each side is being stubborn with some of the disputed points."
A Palestinian official said that US President Obama had intervened and that renewed efforts were underway to reach a long term deal.
A Cabinet minister told Ynet on Wednesday that the government has not been updated on the issue of the negotiations, and expressed anger at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Meanwhile, the White House said Wednesday that Obama and Netanyahu had spoken about a possible Gaza ceasefire in phone conversation that day. Earlier, the IDF said it was repositioning its forces near Gaza, in case no deal is reached an fighting resumes.
The Israeli delegation to ceasefire talks left Cairo on Wendesday evening to return to Jerusalem.
Hamas appeared to be doubling down on its demands for the end to the Egyptian and Israeli blockade on Gaza.
In a statement, Hamas leader in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh said Wednesday that "the threats of Israel's leaders only reinforce our commitment to the people's demands, first and foremost the demand to remove the siege on Gaza."
He said that, "the heavy losses of the Palestinian people do not permit us to negotiate and compromise on their demands... No permanent ceasefire agreement can be reached without the removal of the blockade on Gaza."
Nonetheless, Haniyeh backed the Palestinian delegation negotiating indirectly with Israel in Cairo. The team comprises members from all of the Palestinian factions, including Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
A member of the Palestinian delegation to Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo said Wednesday that his team was considering an Egyptian proposal, which was tabled Tuesday. Egyptian mediators have been ferrying between the Palestinians and their Israeli counterparts in an attempt to overcome the differences between the sides.
The Egyptian proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory, according to Palestinian officials in the talks. But it leaves the key areas of disagreement, including Hamas' demand for a full lifting of the blockade and Israeli calls for Hamas to disarm, to later negotiations.
The Palestinian negotiator said he had some reservations about the proposal and would try to improve it. "We would like to see more cross-border freedom, and also to have the question of a Gaza seaport and airport discussed," he said.
The fighting in Gaza erupted July 8, following weeks of escalating tensions. Since then, Israel has launched close to 5,000 airstrikes against what it said were targets linked to Hamas and other militant groups, while Gaza militants fired more than 3,500 rockets and mortar shells at Israel.