Israel reports no progress at Gaza talks

Tuesday 12 August 2014 16.56
Children look at some of the belonging they salvaged from their destroyed homes in Jabalia, northern Gaza
Children look at some of the belonging they salvaged from their destroyed homes in Jabalia, northern Gaza

Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza have made no progress so far, according to an Israeli official.

However, a 72-hour ceasefire in the shattered Palestinian enclave is holding for a second day.

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were expected to reconvene later in the day in Cairo where Hamas and its allies are seeking an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.

"The gaps between the sides are big and there is no progress in the negotiations," said an Israeli official who declined to be named.

There was no immediate comment from Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates Gaza.

A Palestinian official familiar with the talks, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: "So far we can't say a breakthrough has been achieved ... 24 hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement."

Hamas also wants the opening of a Mediterranean seaport for Gaza, a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased.

Neighbouring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.

Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border attacks.

It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into Gaza to rebuild those tunnels.

The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had consented that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.

Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organisation.

Hamas for its part is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Gaza hospital officials have said 1,938 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the start of Israel's military campaign on 8 July to quell rocket and mortar fire.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, one of them a Thai farm worker.

The heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians are squeezed into a narrow urbanised area, have drawn international condemnation.

According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 displaced people in Gaza are in emergency shelters or staying with host families.

Nearly 12,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli air strikes and heavy shelling.

In Geneva, the United Nations named an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes by both sides during the conflict.