GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel and the Palestinians agreed Sunday to a new 72-hour Gaza ceasefire, accepting Egypt’s invitation to resume talks to end more than a month of fighting in which more than 2,000 people died.
The agreement, to take effect at one minute past midnight (2101 GMT on Sunday), clinched days of frantic mediation to stem a firestorm of violence that ignited after an earlier truce collapsed on Friday.
“Israel has accepted the Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire,” an official told AFP shortly after a Palestinian source confirmed accepting the initiative.
The Egyptian foreign ministry called for the ceasefire to begin at 00:01 local time (21:01 GMT Sunday) “given the necessity to protect innocent blood”.
It called on both sides to use the lull to “reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”Such a deal must lead to the lifting by Israel of its blockade of the Gaza Strip, Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal told AFP in an exclusive interview in Doha on Sunday.
“We insist on this goal,” he said. “In the case of Israeli procrastination or continued aggression, Hamas is ready with other Palestinian factions to resist on the ground and politically,” he added.
Veteran Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat arrived in Cairo Sunday night for talks with Egyptian and Arab League officials on behalf of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, an airport official said.
Israel said its team would only head out once the truce went into force.”If there is a full ceasefire on the ground the Israeli delegation will arrive in Egypt tomorrow,” an Israeli government official said Sunday night.