Israeli negotiators return to Cairo to resume Gaza truce talks
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli negotiators returned to Cairo on Monday to resume talks with Palestinians as a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip held throughout the morning.
There was a brief flurry of cross-border rocket and artillery fire between Gaza and Israel minutes before the 72-hour truce began at midnight, but there were no reported violations throughout the morning.
Residents of Gaza got up early to take advantage of the lull.
Fishermen took to their boats, and some motored out to sea to cast nets. There were even surfers playing in the waves. Lines formed quickly at banks and at stores selling bottles of cooking gas. Markets were packed.
Some Gazans said they feared that the cease-fire would not hold, that one side will walk away from the negotiations in Cairo, frustrated that its terms were not being met.
In the short term, Israel seeks peace and quiet, and the cessation of the indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza that has sent Israelis running for bomb shelters day after day. Ultimately, Israel wants the Gaza Strip to be demilitarized. And it would like the militant Islamist group Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip but which Israel and the United States brand a terrorist organization, to be replaced as the governing power in Gaza.
The agenda for talks includes the rebuilding of Gaza. A month of Israeli airstrikes and artillery shelling destroyed thousands of homes and much of the enclave's infrastructure. The parties are expected to talk about a possible prisoner release and about easing some of the restrictions that cramp daily life for many Gazans.
There appears to be a wide gap between what would be acceptable to Palestinian negotiators from Hamas and those from the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank.
To the thinking of Hamas and many here, Gaza deserves not punishment but something substantive for all the suffering and destruction the enclave has experienced.
But Israel does not seem to be in any mood to reward Hamas. And the Egyptians, led by a military-backed government that hates Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, may not press the Islamist movement's case.
An official in the Palestinian Authority government in Ramallah said Palestinians want more Gazans to be permitted to leave the territory to visit the West Bank and Israel, under international monitoring.
The Palestinians are pushing for more crossing points to reopen or have their hours extended.