Israel, Hamas extend Gaza truce after rocky start

World Today

A Palestinian man inspects the damage of his flat in the destroyed Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip on Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)

A five-day extension of a Gaza truce between Israel and major Palestinian factions, including Hamas, appeared to be holding despite a shaky start on Thursday. It is the longest cease-fire yet since fighting on the Gaza strip broke out one month ago.

Israel’s military said eight Hamas rockets were launched at Israel but that the firing stopped in the early hours of Thursday morning. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on rockets and rocket-launching sites in Gaza. Gaza police said there were no casualties.

So far, fighting in Gaza has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

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Palestinian negotiators in Cairo expressed optimism that a deal to create a sustainable roadmap for the war-torn territory could soon be achieved.

“There is a real opportunity to reach an agreement, but (Israel) must stop the maneuvers and playing with words,” said senior Hamas negotiator Khalil al-Haya.

“We are not interested in more destruction for our people. We are not interested in more bloodshed,” al-Haya added.

Hamas wants to end a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel wants Hamas to disarm, or at least be prevented from re-arming. Hamas has recovered from previous rounds of violence with Israel, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of several thousands of rockets, some with long ranges and relatively heavy payloads.

The Israeli security cabinet, which has determined the course of the Gaza conflict, was scheduled to meet later on Thursday to discuss the proposals being put forward by the Egyptians. Egyptian and Palestinian sources said Israel had tentatively agreed to relax curbs on the movement of people and goods across the border, subject to certain conditions.

Five day ceasefire extension holding

Five day ceasefire extension holding

After a month of fighting, in which nearly two thousand have been killed, a five day extension to the latest cease-fire in Gaza is holding. As Matthew Calman reports, this truce is bringing a climmer of hope to the region.

Report compiled with information from Reuters and The Associated Press