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Israeli forces redeploy near Gaza border as ceasefire end looms

Aug. 13, 2014 5:20 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 14, 2014 3:15 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- As negotiations between the Palestinian and Israeli delegations faltered on Wednesday during a 72-hour ceasefire, Israeli forces began redeploying near the Gaza border in advance of the midnight deadline.

Earlier, Egypt called for a three-day renewal in order to press for more time to reach a long-term agreement, even as Israel refused to accede to Palestinian demands for an end to the eight-year Israeli siege on Gaza.

A Palestinian official told Ma'an that Egypt had also suggested a new ceasefire proposal that would include easing the Israeli siege on Gaza as well as restrictions caused by Egypt's closure of the Rafah crossing, a key demand of the Palestinian leadership.

Despite the negotiations, the Israeli army was reportedly deploying forces at the border with the Gaza Strip and authorities on Wednesday afternoon said they were considering calling up more reservists.

The move comes as negotiations for peace have reached an impasse amid a five-week Israeli assault on Gaza that has left nearly 2,000 Palestinians dead and around 10,000 injured.

Hamas has insisted that Israel end its eight-year siege on the Gaza Strip, release dozens of prisoners whom Israel has re-arrested that were released in 2011 as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange, the re-opening of a seaport and airport in Gaza, and the creation of a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Hamas' demands are consistent with the terms of the Oslo Accords signed between Israel and the Palestinians in the 1990s, but which Israel has failed to abide by amid its refusal to consider direct negotiations of any kind with Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.

Israeli authorities have said that they would be willing to extend the ceasefire indefinitely but have also stressed that a long-term agreement should include the demilitarization of the Strip.

Hamas has scoffed at this demand, saying it was al-Qassam fighters who prevented the full-scale infiltration and re-occupation of Gaza by Israeli forces in recent weeks.

Before another temporary ceasefire last week, Israeli forces pulled out of major Gaza cities and redeployed on the Israeli side of the border, although airstrikes and shelling on Gazan cities continued between temporary ceasefires.
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