11 Aug 2014

New Gaza ceasefire agreed

9:02 pm on 11 August 2014

A new 72-hour truce in the Gaza strip agreed by Israel and the Palestinians has come into effect.

The Palestinians accepted an Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire after Israel agreed to resume talks in Cairo with no pre-conditions.

A previous three-day ceasefire expired at the weekend and fighting had resumed.

Smoke rises from the coastal side of the Gaza strip following an Israeli military strike.

Smoke rises from the coastal side of the Gaza strip following an Israeli military strike. Photo: AFP

The Israeli team had flown home on Friday before a previous three-day truce expired and hostilities in the month-old conflict broke out again. Israeli negotiators would return to Cairo on Monday to resume indirect talks with the Palestinians if the truce held, a senior Israeli government official said.

A Hamas official said Palestinian factions had accepted Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue, Reuters reports.

In a statement, Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will not negotiate under fire" and warned of a protracted Israeli military campaign in the Gaza Strip if rocket salvoes continued.

Hamas has demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the coastal territory and the opening of a Gaza seaport - a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.

Since the previous ceasefire expired, Palestinian rocket and mortar salvoes have focused on Israeli kibbutzim, or collective farms, just across the border.

A month of war has killed 1895 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely-populated Gaza. Hospital officials in the territory say the Palestinian death toll has been mainly civilian since the 8 July launch of Israel's military campaign to quell Gaza rocket fire.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians to the war, where losses of non-combatants in Gaza and the destruction of thousands of homes have drawn international condemnation.

Before the truce ran out, Israel said it was ready to agree to an extension. Hamas did not agree, calling for an end to the economically stifling blockade of the enclave that both Israel and Egypt, which regards the Islamist movement as a security threat, have imposed. Israel has resisted easing access to Gaza, suspecting Hamas could then restock with weapons from abroad.

A sticking point has been Israel's demand for guarantees that Hamas would not use any reconstruction supplies sent to Gaza to build more tunnels of the sort that Palestinian fighters have used to infiltrate the Jewish state.