December 18, 2014
Israelis, Palestinians begin new talks to end Gaza war
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators resumed indirect talks mediated by Egypt today on ending a month-old Gaza war, Egypt's state news agency said, after a new 72-hour truce appeared to be holding.
The Israeli military said one rocket was launched at the Tel Aviv area, in Israel's commercial heartland, before the ceasefire began at 2100 GMT yesterday and may have landed in the sea. Gaza's dominant Hamas group said it fired the missile.
A senior Israeli government official had said on Sunday Israeli negotiators, who had left Cairo on Friday hours before a previous three-day ceasefire expired, would return to Egypt to resume the talks only if the new truce held.
Hamas is demanding an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave - a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.
A month of war has killed 1,938 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza, and Egypt's Foreign Ministry has urged both sides to work towards "a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".
Gaza hospital officials say the Palestinian death toll has been mainly civilian since the July 8 launch of Israel's military campaign to quell Gaza rocket fire.
Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, while heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza have drawn international condemnation.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said the new negotiations would be "the last chance" for an agreement. Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organization.