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Reports of progress in Cairo talks as 72-hour truce holds

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Negotiations over a long-term ceasefire between Israel and Hamas remain ongoing in Cairo as a 72-hour ceasefire enters its second day.

Israel’s government had refused to negotiate while Gaza rocket fire on Israel continued over the weekend. However, no rockets have been launched since a 72-hour truce came into effect on Monday, paving the way for talks to proceed in Cairo, brokered by Egypt and the Palestinian Authority (PA) with the help of the Arab League.

Although there has been no official comment on how the talks have progressed so far, the Times and Independent both describe them as a “last chance” for sustained quiet. Ynet news reports this morning that the negotiations have come to a standstill, but Israel Radio says that Israeli officials expect a further 72-hour truce to be agreed, which Channel Two says Hamas would also accept. Meanwhile, Egyptian daily al-Shorouk reported late yesterday that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations have agreed on 95 per cent of the issues. The report says that the outstanding issues are the establishment of an air and sea port in Gaza and the release of Palestinian prisoners apprehended prior to the Olso Accords of the 1990s.

Haaretz also claims that a deal for a long-term truce is close. It suggests that Israel has agreed to extend the fishing zone off Gaza, ease passage between the West Bank and Gaza and to allow the transfer of money to pay Hamas officials. However, there is apparently no agreement on Gaza ports or on the critical issue of demilitarising the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, in another potential development, Izzat al-Risheq, one of the Hamas officials at the Cairo talks is quoted saying that “we are ready as of now” for the PA to take control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon are thought to be managing the Cairo negotiations and will update the rest of the Security Cabinet today.