Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks on ending the Gaza violence yesterday after a new 72-hour truce held firm.
The four-strong Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo just hours after the ceasefire came into effect at 10pm on Sunday night.
The Palestinian delegation was already in the Egyptian capital and deep in talks with Egyptian mediators, who will relay their demands to the Israeli negotiators.
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat had arrived in Cairo late on Sunday for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials on behalf of President Mahmoud Abbas.
Signs were that the negotiations would be difficult.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the new negotiations would be “the last chance” for an agreement.
And Israel maintained barely concealed threats to underpin — or undermine — the talks.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said yesterday that disarming “Gaza militants” was crucial to sustaining any long-term truce.
“I certainly hope that there will be a diplomatic solution,” he said.
“If there will not be a diplomatic solution, I am convinced that sooner or later we will have to opt for a military solution of taking temporary control of Gaza to demilitarise it again.”
Attacks by Israel had continued right up until the last moments.
Israeli air strikes and shelling killed nine Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday.
One air strike destroyed the home of Gaza City Mayor Nezar Hijazi.
The Israeli military said that it had targeted 11 “terror squads” in Gaza, claiming that gunmen involved in or preparing to fire rockets were among their targets.
The Israelis claimed that one rocket had been launched at Tel Aviv before the ceasefire began.
UN secretary-general Ban Ki Moon said the talks give the two sides “another chance to agree on a durable ceasefire” while stressing the importance of addressing “the underlying grievances on both sides.”
Meanwhile, the Israeli military killed 21-year-old Zakariah al-Aqrah early yesterday morning in the West Bank village of Qabalan.
Israel claimed he was killed after he opened fire on soldiers who had come to arrest him in connection with shootings two weeks ago.
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