THOUSANDS of Palestinians rallied in Gaza City today in support of their negotiators in Cairo and defiance of the Israeli war machine.
A three-day ceasefire in Gaza entered its final stretch with Israel offering to extend the ceasefire, but with no concessions whatsoever to Palestinian demands.
But Hamas spokesman Ismael Radwan said there would not be a renewal of the ceasefire due to end early today unless Israel meets some of its demands.
“The truce will not be renewed. It cannot be renewed without real achievements,” he said.
“As we speak, no response has been received to Hamas’s demands, which means there is no breakthrough in this respect.”
Even Israel’s main ally the US sent signals that Israel had to consider some long-term steps to break the Gaza deadlock.
President Barack Obama insisted that Gaza could not remain forever cut off by Israel’s blockade, now in its eighth year.
“Long-term, there has to be a recognition that Gaza cannot sustain itself permanently closed off from the world,” Mr Obama told a news conference in Washington.
He warned that the Palestinians needed to see “some prospects for an opening of Gaza so that they do not feel walled off.”
While Israel is calling for demilitarisation of Gaza — which Hamas simply rejects — Hamas wants the Israeli blockade on Gaza to be lifted and Palestinian prisoners to be released.
But although Israel has expressed willingness to extend the truce indefinitely, there has been little or no evidence of flexibility in its attitude to Gaza and Hamas in particular.
Despite UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon’s comments that the deaths in Gaza had “shocked and shamed the world,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has maintained that the intense bombardment of Gaza was a necessary response.
“It was justified. It was proportionate,” he insisted.
Four weeks of war has killed 1,886 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side. Figures released by Unicef indicate that 73 per cent of the victims — 1,354 people — were civilians.
Of that number at least 429 were children — around 30 per cent of the civilian casualties.