News World Negotiators discuss Israel truce

Negotiators discuss Israel truce

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Hamas negotiators have met with the Islamic militant group’s leadership in Qatar to discuss a proposal for a long-term truce with Israel, with an official saying the group was inclined to accept the Egyptian-mediated offer.

Israel and Hamas are observing a five-day temporary ceasefire in an attempt to allow indirect talks in Cairo to continue.

The Friday negotiations are meant to secure a substantive end to the month-long Gaza war and draw up a roadmap for the coastal territory, which has been hard-hit in the fighting.

Hamas is demanding the lifting of the blockade Israel and Egypt imposed after the militant group seized power in Gaza in 2007.

The proposal is believed to include the lifting of some restrictions, with Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ forces assuming responsibility for border crossings under new arrangements with Egypt.

Israeli officials have said little about the negotiations, saying only that the country’s security needs must be met.

Representatives of Palestinian factions in Cairo said progress was being made.

A Hamas official said his group had all but accepted the offer and was currently finalising the wording.

“The proposed agreement states in many places that lifting the blockade will come through measures and mechanisms agreed upon between Israel and the Palestinian Authority,” the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the ongoing negotiations, said.

“This means Israel will always have the upper hand, and might return the situation on the crossings back to the way it used to be before the war.”

He said the emerging deal would end hostilities and answer some immediate Hamas needs, including providing materials for reconstruction.

The Gaza blockade remains the main stumbling block.

It has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people, restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel, meanwhile, has demanded that Hamas be disarmed, or at the very least be prevented from re-arming, a term that is a virtual non-starter for the militant group.