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Cease-fire in Gaza holds for 2nd day

By Associated Press in Gaza Strip | China Daily | Updated: 2014-08-07 07:00

Egypt to negotiate a long-term truce between Israelis and Palestinians

A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas that ended a month of war was holding for a second day on Wednesday, ahead of negotiations in Cairo on a long-term truce and a broader deal for the war-ravaged Gaza Strip.

In the coming days, Egyptian mediators will shuttle between delegations from both sides to try to work out a deal.

The Palestinian delegation is composed of negotiators from all major factions, including Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza. Names of those in the Israeli team have not been disclosed.

Some details have emerged about the negotiating points of Hamas, including an internationally funded reconstruction of the coastal strip that would be overseen by a Palestinian unity government led by President Mahmoud Abbas.

Meanwhile, Norway is organizing a donor conference, and the Western-backed Abbas is expected to take the lead in overseeing the rebuilding in the coastal territory, which his Fatah movement lost to Hamas in 2007.

International Middle East envoy Tony Blair, who is also involved in arranging the conference, was in Cairo and was to meet with Egypt's foreign minister and Arab League officials on Wednesday.

The cease-fire is the longest lull in a war that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians. Israel has lost 67 people, including three civilians.

The war broke out on July 8, when the Israeli military began bombarding targets in Gaza in an attempt to stop Hamas from launching rockets at Israel.

On July 17, Israel sent ground troops into the densely populated territory to destroy underground tunnels it said Hamas had constructed for attacks inside Israel.

Cease-fire in Gaza holds for 2nd day

But in the weeks leading up to the war, Israeli-Palestinian tensions were soaring in the wake of the June killings of three Israeli teenagers, whose bodies were discovered two weeks after they disappeared in the West Bank.

Israel accused Hamas of being behind the abductions, and subsequently carried out a massive ground operation in the West Bank, arresting hundreds of Hamas operatives as part of a manhunt.

And in early July, an Arab teenager was abducted and burned alive by Israeli extremists in an apparent revenge attack.

Six Jewish Israelis were arrested after that killing.

On Wednesday, Israel's justice ministry confirmed that the suspected mastermind behind the killing of the three Israeli teens had been arrested in July.

The suspect, Husam al-Qawasmi, allegedly led a three-man cell that Israeli prosecutors say kidnapped and murdered the teens. It wasn't immediately clear if al-Qawasmi has been charged.

Israel says the cell's members are all affiliated with Hamas, though the militant group has not claimed any connection to the teens' abduction and killing.

In Gaza, people took advantage of the calm on Wednesday to return to their devastated homes and inspect the damage.

Cars and donkey carts loaded with household goods and mattresses filled the streets, and lines formed at banks as people waited to withdraw cash from ATMs.

Crews from utility companies worked frantically to repair downed electricity and telephone lines, though with Gaza's only electrical generating plant badly damaged by an Israeli attack, it may be a long while before anything resembling normal service is restored.

(China Daily 08/07/2014 page12)

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