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Hamas officials: No truce progress

Aug. 14, 2014 6:47 A.M. (Updated: Aug. 16, 2014 6:03 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- A Gaza-based Hamas-affiliated member of the Palestinian negotiating team said Thursday that no deal had been reached with the Israelis over a long-term Gaza ceasefire.

Khalil al-Hayya said that an "agreement hasn’t been reached because the Israelis were playing with words."

He said that a real opportunity to reach agreement was missed.

“We are negotiating with a veteran enemy experienced in procrastination and evading reality," he added in a news conference held in Gaza City.

Al-Hayya applauded the Egyptian mediators who "played praiseworthy efforts to reach a comprehensive agreement."

Asked about the Rafah crossing, which is controlled by Egypt and frequently closed, he said that "we understood from the Egyptians was that they would introduce satisfactory facilitations."

Israel and Gaza fighters were holding their fire Thursday after the new truce got off to a shaky start, with night-time rocket fire followed by Israeli air strikes.

The Israeli army said that there had been no fighting for several hours, since Israeli air raids into Gaza finished around 3 a.m.

Palestinians had fired two rockets into southern Israel two hours earlier, after a five-day ceasefire extension was to have taken effect.

An army spokeswoman said that aircraft hit rocket-launching sites, weapons caches and "centers of terrorist activity" but could not give a precise number.

An official at the Palestinian interior ministry reported four air strikes over open ground about 30 minutes after an existing 72-hour truce was extended at midnight for another five days.

More than 1,950 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side have been killed since July 8, when Israel launched its offensive.

After days of shuttle diplomacy, the agreement clinched by Egypt ushered in what is potentially the longest period of calm in the five-week conflict and will allow more time for talks on the thorniest issues that separate the two sides, the Palestinians said.

An earlier truce collapsed in a firestorm of violence on Aug. 8.

Palestinian negotiator Azzam al-Ahmad said in Cairo that more time was needed to discuss "some" remaining disputes with Israel over a long-term truce.

However, senior Hamas leader Mousa Abu Marzouq said Wednesday evening that the Palestinian and Israeli delegations haven’t reached an agreement on any points during the indirect negotiations in Cairo through Egyptian mediators.

Abu Marzouq’s comments, in an interview with the Beirut-based al-Mayadeen satellite channel, contradicted an announcement by senior Fatah official Azzam al-Ahmad who heads Palestinian all-faction delegation.

Al-Ahmad had said earlier on Wednesday evening that a major breakthrough was made on several points and that only specific details remained for discussion.

But Abu Marzouq said the only agreement reached was to extend the ceasefire by five more days.

"There is nothing we can say we reached agreement on," Abu Marzouq told al-Mayadeen, "and we still need rounds of talks."

The Hamas leader said that the main source of disagreement was the terminology used by the Israeli negotiator.

"In each sentence of the agreement’s clauses, they insert a word here and a word there to change the intended meaning of Palestinian demands."

He added that "what Israel gives with the right hand, it takes it back with the left."

The Palestinian delegation is scheduled to leave Cairo Thursday for consultation with Palestinian officials before they return next week.

AFP contributed to this report.
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