Talks have been reportedly underway for a five-year gradual truce between the Palestinian resistance group Hamas and Israel, a Lebanese newspaper reported Saturday. Al Akhbar daily, citing sources close to Hamas, said the talks were being conducted through a third party.
Israel set out limited goals for Gaza truce talks yesterday, saying the focus was on a proposal to ease its closure on the Hamas-controlled territory in return for the Palestinians calming their side of the frontier. The Israeli statement came hours before Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was due to convene his security cabinet to discuss and possibly approve, U.N.- and Egyptian-brokered ideas for preventing another threatened Gaza war.
According to the newspaper, the first phase of the proposed truce will be applied in one week by halting the launch of incendiary balloons from the Gaza Strip into Israel in return for Israel reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing, Gaza's sole commercial access point. The balloons are being fired by Palestinian activists as part of ongoing anti-occupation rallies being held along Gaza border.
The second phase of the plan, according to the sources, includes the total lifting of the 11-year Israeli blockade on Gaza and improving living standards.
The third phase of the plan includes implementing U.N. pledges on carrying out a host of humanitarian projects, such as building a seaport in Egypt's canal city of Ismailiyah, a power station in Sinai and the rebuilding of the Gaza Strip, the sources said.
According to the Lebanese newspaper, Hamas has initially agreed to an Egyptian and international road map for de-escalation in Gaza. However, a final decision will be taken by the resistance group after a meeting of Hamas political bureau.
A prisoner's swap between Israel and Hamas is also expected to be discussed in light of the truce talks, the sources said.
On Thursday, Hamas deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri returned to Gaza after eight years of exile. Arouri's return to Gaza has been interpreted in Israeli and Palestinian media as "relevant to negotiations through third parties for a long-term agreement between Hamas and Israel."
Gaza, under years of grinding Israeli and Egyptian blockades, has seen a surge in tensions since Palestinians launched weekly border protests on March 30, drawing Israeli army fire that has killed at least 157 people. After shelling exchanges between Hamas and Israel, Israel responded on July 9 by shuttering Gaza's main commercial terminal and limiting a Palestinian fishing zone off the blockaded enclave.
Compiled from wires