Gaza Strip Peace Talks Begin In Egypt During Three-Day Cease-Fire
As a 72-hour cease-fire began in the Gaza Strip on Monday, Israeli and Hamas delegations arrived in Egypt for peace talks in what officials hope will be the start of a long-lasting truce. The peace talks will only take place if Israeli and Hamas forces continue to uphold the three-day cease-fire. So far, reports have said the Gaza Strip remains quiet and free of violence for the first time since the gruesome conflict began on July 8.
This is the second Gaza Strip cease-fire to be implemented over the last few days, with the first one ending on Friday. According to BBC News, Israeli airstrikes have killed at least 20 Palestinians since Friday. Those airstrikes continued in the region through Sunday evening, though the current cease-fire seemed to be holding Monday morning.
Israeli officials reportedly walked away from truce talks over the weekend, due to renewed rebel fighting in southern Israel. The Guardian added that Palestinian officials also nearly abandoned the peace talks, claiming Israel was not meeting their demands. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet during a meeting on Sunday that Israel "will not engage in negotiations under fire."
An Egyptian mediator will oversee this latest bid for peace in the Gaza Strip, which has been under heavy assault for the last month. When it comes to a lasting truce, both sides are aiming for different gains: Hamas wants Egypt to lift the blockade instated on the region eight years ago, while Israeli wants to disarm Hamas militants.
James Rawley, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, warned that there would be no truce between Israel and Palestine if the blockade isn't lifted, according to The Agence France-Presse:
The blockade must be lifted not only to get material into Gaza in order to rebuild it but to allow Gaza to do what it was doing very well just 10 years ago, to trade with the outside world. ... The blockade has to be lifted in order that Gaza can thrive.
According to Gaza's Health Ministry, 1,915 Palestinians have been killed during the conflict, most of them civilians. About 70 Israelis have been killed in the attacks, three of them civilians, Israeli officials said.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency said more than 230,000 Palestinian refugees are taking shelter in 90 UNRWA facilities throughout the region. Many refugees are crowding into UNRWA schools, where conditions are poor and supplies are running low. The agency adds that roughly 36,700 houses have been damaged in Gaza over the last month.
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