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Palestinian Official Says 'the War is Behind Us' in Exchange for Funds Transfer

August 15th 2014

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A fragile ceasefire extension between Hamas and Israel entered its second day on Friday as the two sides in the Gaza conflict ponder Egyptian-mediated efforts to secure a lasting peace.

Deputy chief of Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nahalla, told Friday morning the London-based Al-Hayat newspaper that "the war is behind us. At this point we have no choice but to reach an agreement."

On Thursday Nahalla said a permanent deal with Israel is near, adding the agreement will include a guarantee to lift the blockade over Gaza. Nahalla said the two sides agreed on the openings of the crossings, easing the restrictions on material import into Gaza, the expansion of the limited fishing zone around the Strip and the dismantling of the security "perimeter" maintained by Israel along the border.

"The agreement moves us from a state of war to the rehabilitation phase," he said.

Nahalla noted that Egypt helped block Israel's demands for a demilitarization of the militant groups operating in Gaza, an end to the smuggling operations, weapon manufacturing and tunnel construction.

An official in Hamas' foreign leadership said Thursday night that there are initial indications that in the next five days a breakthrough in the talks will happen that would lead to an agreed deal. "The formula proposed by Egypt over the last two days could lead directly to what we see as a breakthrough and an answer to our demands," he said.

A senior Palestinian Authority official said that Hamas has agreed to delay its demand for an airport and seaport in Gaza. In return for the delay, Hamas conditioned that Israel should permit funds to be transferred to Gaza to pay the salaries of Hamas civil servants.

Speaking to reporters in Gaza City, Hamas politburo member Khalil al-Haya said there was "still a real chance of reaching an agreement", but only if Israel "would stop playing with words."

Palestinian chief negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed said the delegations had reached "agreement on many points" concerning the lifting of Israel's eight-year blockade on Gaza but needed more time to settle a number of remaining disputes.

Israel also confirmed it accepted the Egyptian proposal. "We're honoring the ceasefire and let's see what Hamas does," a senior official told AFP.

Israeli negotiators and various members of the Palestinian delegation have left Cairo Wednesday night for consultations with their respective bases and are not expected to return before Saturday night at the earliest.

The Israeli security cabinet met on Thursday and discussions were expected to continue on Friday.

Egyptian mediators have proposed that talks on a seaport and airport in Gaza be delayed until a month after a permanent ceasefire takes effect, according to documents seen by AFP. Negotiations over the exchange of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel would also be postponed.

An Israeli-imposed buffer zone inside the Gaza border would be gradually reduced, and eventually policed by forces under the command of Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

Israel has said it will facilitate Gaza's reconstruction only if the enclave is fully disarmed, a demand rejected by the Palestinians.

This report first appeared at i24News.tv

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