Israel Agrees to Ease Blockade of Gaza Strip To Reach Hamas Truce

  on August 12 2014 1:08 PM
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Palestinians sit in a tent outside their apartments, which witnesses said were destroyed in an Israeli offensive, during a 72-hour truce in Beit Lahiya town in the northern Gaza Strip August 11, 2014. reuters/Suhaib Salem

Israel has agreed to ease conditions in the Gaza Strip during indirect cease-fire talks in Cairo, a senior Israeli official has revealed. 

According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, while no long-term truce has been agreed, Israel is prepared to go further than the truce negotiated in 2012 after its so-called Operation Pillar of Defence in a number of areas. 

The easing of conditions, if agreed, will not include the construction of a seaport or an airport in Gaza.

However, they will include the expansion of the fishing zone off Gaza from its current range of three nautical miles to six. If the security situation improves, Israel said it would consider expanding this to 12 nautical miles, the amount that Hamas wants.

The official said that Israel is also willing to ease the passage of people from Gaza to both Israel and the West Bank, and to increase the number of permits authorized each month to 5,000.

Furthermore, Israel said it is willing to significantly increase the number of Gazan trucks carrying various goods which can enter Israel through the Kerem Shalom crossing on the Gaza Strip-Israel-Egypt border.

Finally, the official said that Israel is prepared to allow the transfer of money to Gaza to pay the salaries of Hamas through a third party, provided it is not Qatar or the United Nations. This transfer will have to be monitored to ensure that the funds are not used to finance terror activities.

According to the official, speaking on condition of anonymity, Israel will also be prepared to release a few dozen Palestinian prisoners held during the latest conflict, "Operation Protective Edge," in return for the remains of Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. The IDF declared both soldiers dead, based on forensic findings, but believes Hamas is holding Shaul's body and partial remains of Goldin.

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The latest three-day cease-fire between Israel and Islamist group Hamas has held so far, with normal life beginning to return to streets of Gaza.

Israeli spokesman Mark Regev said the military would be "ready to act to protect our people" if Hamas violated the agreement, while Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the talks were "the last chance" to agree on a long-term truce.

According to the United Nations, more than 1,900 Palestinians – mostly civilians – have been killed in Operation Protective Edge.

The Israeli military confirmed that 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the Gaza clashes, and three civilians were killed by Hamas rocket fire. 

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