Egypt has presented a new ceasefire proposal to Israel and Hamas on Wednesday as the current 72-hour ceasefire agreement is set to expire at midnight.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been conducting talks in Cairo over the last several days in an effort to end the more than month-long war in Gaza.
Palestinian officials told AP early Wednesday morning that Egypt’s new proposal includes easing Israel’s blockade on Gaza, allowing more relief into the Strip. However, the proposal leaves key demands, such as the full lifting of the blockade and the disarmament of Hamas, to later negotiations.
One Palestinians official who spoke to AP said that the blockade would be lifted slowly over time as well as reducing the 500 meter buffer zone Israel has set up along the border with Gaza.
While negotiators are still meeting in Cairo, a senior Hamas leader announced that the current round of talks is Israel’s last chance to negotiate with the terror group.
Ismail Radwan warned on Wednesday that “these three days are the last opportunity as far as we are concerned,” Channel 10 reported.
“If there won’t be advancement towards the demands of the Palestinian people, I anticipate the delegation will leave Cairo,” he added.
Since the start of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas and other radical militant terror groups in Gaza have broken six ceasefire agreements with Israel. Hamas has boasted that they are holding Israel “at gunpoint” throughout the negotiations. The terror group has said Israel better give in to their demands or they would “shoot you in the chest.”
Palestinian demands include the release of terrorists, fully opening up all borders with Gaza, expanding fishing areas, and establishing an airport and seaport in the Strip.
“The talks are difficult but serious,” Moussa Abu Marzouk, head of the Hamas delegation in Cairo, wrote on his Facebook page. “The delegation needs to achieve the hopes of the people.”
As talks continue, Israel has offered a number of goodwill gestures to the Palestinians as part of efforts to extend negotiations. Israel has increased the number of trucks delivering goods from Israel into Gaza each day to Gaza’s 1.8 million residents and approved the transfer of funds to by the Palestinian Authority to Hamas government officials.
Hamas has clarified that should a long-term ceasefire be accepted by both sides, the group would only use it to gain time and plan its next war against Israel.
Israel’s Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon warned that that Hamas would most likely resume fighting should a deal not be reached.
“I don’t know if we should extend negotiations. It could be that fire erupts again,” he said. “We must be on alert and ready all the time.”
Israel’s Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz echoed Ya’alon’s assessment. Speaking to Army Radio, Steinitz said, “Either there will be a reasonable resolution of the situation in Gaza, or, if the fire resumes, we will have to consider…and expansion on the ground, overthrowing the Hamas authorities and the demilitarization of Gaza by ourselves.”