Gaza ceasefire: Israel and Hamas begin indirect talks

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A boy rests on a mattress laid out in the rubble of a destroyed building in Beit Lahia, in the northern Gaza Strip, on November 26, 2012, following a truce last week between Israel and Hamas that ended eight days of conflict in which 166 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed. Hamas and Israel have begun indirect talks to implement the ceasefire.

Credit:

MAHMUD HAMS

Representatives from Israel and Hamas began indirect talks in Cairo on Monday over the implementation of the ceasefire deal that ended the recent conflict between Israel and Gaza.

According to the BBC, Egyptian intermediaries have been leading the negotiations.

Among the list of demands are Hamas' push for an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza and Israel's demand for an end to arms smuggling.

The terms of the initial ceasefire, agreed upon by both sides on Wednesday, had Israel agreeing to end all hostilities and targeted killing and Hamas agreeing to stop attacks against Israel and along the Gaza border. The tentative truce has held, despite reports of smaller incidents of violence along the border.

Agence France Presse reported that an Israeli delegation was to arrive in Cairo on Monday for the indirect talks.

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Hamas' deputy political leader, Mussa Abu Marzuk, said, "In the preliminary agreement, Israel agreed to widen the area (allowed to Palestinian fisherman off Gaza's coast) from three to six nautical miles, which started yesterday."

He said Hamas was pushing for a larger coastal zone of 12 nautical miles, according to AFP. Abu Marzuk said the delegations would also discuss linking Gaza economically to the West Bank. The delegations will not meet directly, but will negotiate through Egyptian mediators.

The recent hostilities saw Israel launching some 1,500 airstrikes, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants fired an equivalent number of rockets into Israeli cities, the Associated Press reported. More than 160 Palestinians, including many civilians, were killed. Six Israelis, including four civilians, died in the violence.

The militants want Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza, which was imposed five years ago after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip. The AP noted that while Israel has eased the blockade in recent years, restrictions remain on exports out of Gaza and imports of building materials.

An Israeli official stressed that arms smuggling would be high on Israel's agenda. Speaking anonymously, he told the AP, "Our assessment is that successfully preventing the rearmament of Hamas and other groups is an integral element of maintaining long-term peace and quiet."

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