Gaza Peace Talks: Israel Boycotting Cairo Cease-Fire Negotiations, Gaza Unable To Attend

gaza august1 (2) Palestinians carry the bodies of fellow Palestinians in the east of Khan Younis, which witnesses said was heavily hit by shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive in the southern Gaza Strip Aug. 1, 2014.  reuters/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Following a meeting of the Israeli security cabinet Saturday, Israeli officials say they will not be able to reach a cease-fire deal with Hamas and will consider ending Israel's Operation Protective Edge only when calm has been restored in the disputed Gaza region.

"If we feel that deterrence has been achieved, we'll leave the [Gaza] Strip based on the principle of calm for calm," a senior official said, according to Haaretz. "If we feel deterrence has not yet been achieved, we'll continue the operation in the Gaza Strip, or leave and press on with aerial strikes."

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi said at a press conference on Friday that his country is the only one with a real chance to broker a long-lasting cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist Palestinian faction that dominates the Gaza Strip. However, due to the collapse of Friday’s humanitarian truce, Israel has decided to boycott the Cairo meetings and Gaza representatives are unable to attend for “security reasons.” A Palestinian delegation went to Cairo Saturday without Gaza representation.

"The initiative can bring the current situation to an end," Sisi said. "It can open doors without encountering obstacles, bring a cease-fire and allow aid workers in. There is no alternative.”

Israel has decided it will continue to destroy Hamas-built tunnels on its own terms and will not agree to any cease-fire until the operation is finished. At least four tunnels have been destroyed in the past 24 hours.

“We are very close to completing the mission of dealing with the tunnels,” a senior Israeli officer said on Saturday, according to Haaretz.

"There's no point in promoting an agreement," a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. "We're not talking about cease-fires anymore. Israel will act in its own interest. We will take action against attacks from Gaza, and will finish dealing with the tunnels."

A planned 72-hour cease-fire began Friday morning at 8 a.m., but less than two hours into the truce, clashes erupted near a tunnel in Rafah. The Israeli Defense Forces said troops were near the tunnels when rockets exploded, killing two soldiers and leading to the apparent capture of a third, Lt. Hadar Goldin. The search for him is still going on in Rafah.

Also on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said in a press briefing that he’s not sure Hamas can be trusted with a cease-fire, especially if they continue to violate terms previously agreed to.

Hamas has denied capturing the Israeli soldier and accused Israel of breaking the cease-fire. In a statement published to its website, Hamas’ military wing, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades. said that Israel used the cease-fire to advance troops and likely clashed with advancing Hamas forces. The Israeli soldier is likely dead, according to Hamas, as are all the Hamas troops involved.

“Zionist Enemy Forces used the talks about a humanitarian cease-fire to advance troops more than two kilometers inside the Gaza Strip to the east of Rafah,” the statement said. “Our assessment is that one of our deployed ambushes clashed with the advancing troops. The clash started around 7 a.m., before the humanitarian cease-fire. Enemy artillery and air force directed its fire on civilians after 10:00 a.m. in a flagrant violation of the cease-fire, under the pretext of searching for a missing soldier.”

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, at least 1,624 Palestinians have died in the 26 days of Israel's “Operation Protective Edge,” including 315 children. There have been 63 Israeli military fatalities.

 

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