THE LEVANT – The announcement that the two sides had agreed to extend the ceasefire for another day came shortly before it was set to expire at midnight local time on Monday.
“Palestinians and Israelis agreed on extending the ceasefire by 24 hours to continue current negotiations,” said a statement released by the Egyptian government, which has been facilitating the talks in Cairo.
The head of the Palestinian negotiating team, Azzam al-Ahmad, though, warned that there had been “no progress on any point” in efforts to reach an agreement to end the conflict in the Gaza Strip.
“We hope that every minute of the coming 24 hours will be used to reach an agreement, and if not, the circle of violence will continue,” Ahmad told reporters in Cairo.
Both al-Ahmad and Moussa Abu Marzouk, a senior official with the Islamist militant group Hamas, accused the Israeli side of using “stalling” tactics during the negotiations.
There has been no official comment on the state of the negotiations from the Israeli side, although local media quoted unnamed officials who confirmed that it had accepted the extension.
Negotiators from Israel and Hamas, which the Jewish state regards as a terrorist group, have not actually met face-to-face in Cairo, with Egyptian mediators instead shuttling between the parties, located in separate rooms.
The Palestinian Health Ministry has put the death toll in this summer’s Israeli offensive on the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip at 2,016, most of whom were civilians. Sixty-four soldiers and three civilians have been killed in four weeks of fighting on the Israeli side.
Israel launched its offensive on the coastal enclave on July 8, aimed at stopping rocket attacks on the Jewish state by Hamas and other Palestinian militants.
Suspected militants homes destroyed
In the West Bank meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Forces on Monday destroyed the homes of three suspected Palestinian militants accused of involvement in the killings of three Jewish teenagers back in June. The killings contributed to a rise in tensions that led to the latest Gaza conflict. One of the suspects is in Israeli custody, while the two others remain at large.