Israel agrees to extend cease-fire, Hamas vows more attacks

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Israel agreed on Aug. 6 to extend the cease-fire in Gaza beyond the 72-hour period, while Hamas threatened to resume attacks immediately after the cease-fire if its demands were not met.

“The most important thing to us is removing the blockade and start reconstructing Gaza,” said Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian delegate. “There can be no deal without that.”

Hamas officials said on Aug. 6: “Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades and al Quds Brigades will renew their attacks as soon as the cease-fire is over [Aug. 8] at 8 a.m.”

Reuters, citing an anonymous Israeli official, reported on Aug. 6 the conditional agreement on extending the 72-hour cease-fire, which went into effect Aug. 5. The official did not say for how long the truce would be extended.

Also on Aug. 6, Israel called on its citizens to resume a normal life as long as the truce holds. Israel removed its troops from the Gaza Strip just before the start of the cease-fire.

Egyptian mediators have been negotiating with Palestinian and Israeli delegations at cease-fire talks in Cairo.

As of Aug. 6, the negotiations were still in the early stages, but the outlines of a possible solution were beginning to emerge, including internationally funded reconstruction of Gaza overseen by a Palestinian unity government led by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas lost control of Gaza in the Hamas takeover of 2007.

Frank Lowenstein, acting U.S. special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, was expected to arrive in Cairo Aug. 6 to help assist in the talks, according to the State Department.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed sorrow over the deaths of civilians in Gaza during Israel’s 29-day operation but said Hamas must be held accountable for them.

“The people of Gaza are not our enemy, Hamas is our enemy,” Netanyahu said at an Aug. 6 news conference with the foreign media. “The tragedy of Gaza is that it is ruled by Hamas, a group which delights in civilian casualties.”

He added that Hamas rejected several offers of cease-fires throughout the operation, including early on when 180 Palestinians had been killed. By Aug. 5, the Palestinian death toll was more than 1,885, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported, citing the Gaza Health Ministry.

“Ninety percent of the fatalities could have been avoided had Hamas not rejected then the cease-fire it accepts now,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu urged the international media to talk about seeing Hamas rockets being fired from civilian areas, “now that the members of the press are leaving Gaza and are no longer subject to Hamas retribution.”

The Israeli leader also called for the disarming of Hamas and said he welcomed Secretary of State John Kerry’s calls for disarmament of terror groups in Gaza. — jta &