Israeli Official Denies Agreement to Lift Gaza Blockade
Contrary to reports by the joint Palestinian delegation to Cairo, Israeli representatives have not left Egypt after agreeing to lift the blockade on Gaza, according to a senior Israeli official involved in the negotiations.
Talks are still continuing over core issues, including if and how the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-controlled territory could be eased without compromising Israeli security, as a 24-hour extension of the temporary ceasefire agreed between the sides on Monday gets underway.
The official - who spoke to Channel Two on condition of anonymity - said that no comprehensive agreement for a long-term truce had been made, and that the Israeli delegation had remained in Cairo to as not to undermine the Egyptian initiative.
Last night, sources within the Palestinian delegation claimed that a "major breakthrough" had been made in talks. But the head of the delegation, Azzam al-Ahmad, quickly played down the claims.
"Reports in the media about progress are not correct," he said. "I hope that tomorrow we will take advantage of every moment to reach an agreement, but at this stage we only agreed upon an extension of the (temporary) ceasefire by a day."
"If no agreement is reached, the cycle of violence will be renewed," he warned.
Hamas had repeatedly declared it would not agree to an extension of the ceasefire, and threatened the resumption of a war of attrition against Israel until it gave in to the Islamists' demands. The terrorist group is under pressure to achieve concessions after initiating a bloody conflict with Israel that ravaged its territory and didn't succeed in inflicting significant casualties on Israel.
But pressure from both the Palestinian Authority and Egypt succeeded in forcing them to accept an additional 24-hour ceasefire.
"The negotiations have faced difficulties because of the occupation's obstinacy, and the 24-hour (extension) came as a result of a request by the mediators to have another chance," senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq wrote on Twitter.