The truce between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip held Tuesday for the second day as Egyptians continued to mediate indirect talks aimed at a more lasting cease-fire.
Official information about the talks was scant. Progress was being made but gaps remained wide, Azzam Ahmad, who leads the Palestinian delegation to Cairo, told Israeli news media. “There’s a possibility that we’ll reach an overall full agreement, but we still have a long way to go.”
With the 72-hour truce past mid-point, the chances of reaching an accord by Wednesday night and what would happen if the cease-fire lapsed without an agreement remained unclear.
Israel has signaled that it would accept an extension of the truce but repeatedly has said it will not negotiate under fire.
According to Israeli and Palestinian news reports, the discussions revolve around easing but not entirely lifting the blockade.
Observers noted that the reported Israeli position did not meet the minimum of Hamas' demands.
Israel has shunned the new Palestinian government formed after a political reconciliation in April between Fatah, which has long controlled the Palestinian Authority, and the militant Hamas movement, which has held sway in Gaza since 2007. Israel claims the new government is in effect backed by a terrorist organization.
However, Ahmad said that "the period of Hamas rule in Gaza is over" and urged Israel to cooperate with the new government that now would be the sovereign authority in Gaza, though in reality Hamas remains in control.
Egyptian authorities appear to be making the opening the Rafah crossing between their nation and Gaza dependent on the deployment of the Palestinian Authority presidential guard to monitor the crossing. Egypt and Israel appear keen to see a gradual return of the historically more moderate Palestinian Authority to Gaza.
Earlier Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a meeting of his security Cabinet that had been scheduled to discuss the developments in the Cairo talks. Instead, he summoned several senior ministers, including Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for what local media described as one-on-one "prep talks" before a possible agreement.