Palestinian and Israel delegations returned to Cairo on Sunday to resume indirect talks on the situation in the Gaza Strip as the deadline for a five-day ceasefire looms.
The cross-faction delegation put together by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had all arrived back in Cairo by Sunday to participate in the talks, said a Palestinian official with the delegation. He confirmed that the talks are set to start on Sunday and continue into Monday, after which the current ceasefire agreement is expected to expire.
Osama Hamdan, a member of Hamas’ political bureau and head of foreign relations, said on Saturday that unless Israel accepts the Palestinians’ demands it would “face a long war of attrition”. The Palestinian official said that Hamdan’s words are his personal view and not to be taken as the view of the delegation, stressing that “all [delegation members] are committed to one position”.
Ahead of the talks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the weekly cabinet meeting: “Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings.” He stressed that Israel’s security is the priority for the Israeli delegation in Cairo. Netanyahu added: “As long as quiet is not restored, Hamas will continue to take very harsh blows. If it thinks that we cannot stand it, it is mistaken.”
The latest militarised phase of the decades old conflict began on 8 July, escalating to an Israeli ground offensive launched on 17 July, three days after Hamas declined to participate in an Egyptian ceasefire initiative saying that it was not formally approached to do so. At the start of August, Egypt managed to broker a 72-hour ceasefire, which included indirect talks in Cairo. Last week it seemed that the talks had collapsed after the Israeli delegation left Cairo following an incursion of the ceasefire agreement just hours before it was due to expire without incident. The Palestinians said that if the Israeli delegation did not commit to returning to talks that it too would leave Cairo. Egypt was able to broker another 72-hour ceasefire and the five-day extension was secured on 13 August.
The conflict has resulted in the deaths of over 2,000 people, and in Gaza 1,417 of those killed were civilians, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Of the 67 Israeli deaths, three were civilians including one foreign national.