Gaza truce enters second day as delegations prepare for Cairo talks 

Gaza/Cairo : Palestinian and Israeli negotiators were holding indirect talks in Cairo on Thursday for a long-term truce in war-torn Gaza as the three-day ceasefire entered its last 24 hours with no breakthrough yet, reports PTI.

The clock was ticking on the 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that has brought relief to millions on both sides after a month of fighting killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 people in Israel, mostly soldiers.

Egyptian officials, who brokered the truce that began on Tuesday, were working against the clock to persuade both sides to agree a long-term deal.

“Indirect talks are ongoing and we still have today to secure this,” an Egyptian official said when asked whether the truce was likely to be extended beyond 0500 GMT Friday.

“Egypt’s aims are to stabilise and extend the truce with the agreement of both sides and to begin negotiations towards a permanent agreement to cease fire and ease border restrictions,” he said, according to the BBC.

Israeli officials said the country has offered to extend the three-day ceasefire in Gaza which began on Tuesday. But Hamas deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuq, part of the Palestinian delegation taking part in Egypt-mediated talks in Cairo, denied that there was yet any agreement on the extension of the ceasefire.

Israeli demand for a long-term agreement is the demilitarisation of Gaza. That is highly unlikely to be accepted by Hamas, which considers itself a resistance movement and refuses to lay down its arms, the BBC said. Hamas and the other Palestinian factions are meanwhile demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza and the freeing of prisoners released in exchange for Gilad Shalit in 2011 who were recently re-arrested.

Harinder Mishra

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