Netanyahu threatens "very aggressive" response if rocket fire resumes
Update (August, 19 03:35am): The chief Palestinian delegate to truce talks with
Israel warned on Tuesday that Gaza violence could erupt anew unless progress is
made toward a lasting deal ahead of a midnight deadline in Egyptian-brokered
After a last-minute agreement was stuck with Israel
to extend an expiring truce by 24 hours, Azzam al-Ahmad, senior leader of
President Mahmoud Abbas's mainstream Fatah movement, said in Cairo that there
had been "no progress on any point" in talks aimed at resolving the
"We hope that every minute of the coming 24
hours will be used to reach an agreement, and if not (successful), the circle
of violence will continue," Ahmad said.
He accused Israel of "maneuvering and stalling"
as gaps on key issues continued to dog efforts to achieve a long-term deal
between Israel and militant groups in the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas
Islamists, which would allow reconstruction aid to flow in after five weeks of
Senior Hamas official Moussa Abu Marzouk accused
Israel of stalling and insisted in a post on his Twitter account that the group
"will never cede any" demands for a comprehensive deal.
A senior Palestinian official in Gaza said sticking
points to an agreement were Hamas's demands to build a seaport and an airport,
which Israel wants to discuss only at a later stage.
Israel, which launched its offensive on July 8
after a surge in Hamas rocket fire across the border, has shown scant interest
in making sweeping concessions, and has called for the disarming of militant
groups in the enclave of 1.8 million people.
Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not
Hamas also insists that Israel free Palestinian
prisoners while Israel wants Hamas to hand over the remains of two soldiers
killed during the war.
Israel has signalled agreement to open Gaza
crossings, which would ease a blockade of the coastal territory and allow for a
freer flow of goods, and to extend maritime limnits in the Mediterranean Sea.
Israel made clear before the earlier truce lapsed
that it would continue to hold its fire as long as Palestinians did the same.
However, Netanyahu said on Sunday while visiting a
naval port with his defence minister that "the Israeli military is
prepared to take very aggressive action if shooting resumes" at Israel.
Israel and Hamas have not met face-to-face in
Cairo, where the talks are being held in a branch of the intelligence agency,
with Egyptian mediators shuttling between the parties in separate rooms. Israel
regards Hamas, which advocates its destruction, as a terrorist group.
The Palestinian Health Ministry put the Gaza death
toll at 2,016 and said most were civilians in the small, densely populated
coastal territory. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel
have been killed.
The United Nations said 425,000 people in Gaza have
been displaced by the conflict.
Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed they
had agreed to the latest extension of the truce to give them time to pursue
The latest truce is the third in 10 days when
fighting was brought to a halt. It followed a five-day ceasefire that expired
at 2100 GMT on Monday.