Israel ready to extend Gaza ceasefire
A 72-hour Gaza truce held through its second day on Wednesday.
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JOHANNESBURG/GAZA - As talks continue in Egypt about how to make the Middle East truce last, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says the truth must come out about Hamas' so-called terror tunnels and rocket attacks against Israel.
A 72-hour Gaza truce held through its second day on Wednesday and Israel said it was ready to extend the deal as Egyptian mediators pursued talks with Israelis and Palestinians on an enduring end to a war that devastated the Hamas-ruled enclave.
Netanyahu says the tragedy of Gaza is that it is ruled by Hamas, which he has described as "a tyrannical and fanatical terror group, which relishes civilian casualties."
But he says Israel regrets the civilian deaths caused by the four-week long fighting.
"Israel deeply regrets every civilian casualty, every single one. We do not target them, we do not seek them. The people of Gaza are not our enemy, our enemy is Hamas, our enemies are the other terrorists'
Gaza officials say the war has killed 1,874 Palestinians, most of them civilians. Israel says 64 of its soldiers and three civilians have been killed since fighting began on 8 July, after a surge in Palestinian rocket salvoes into Israel.
Egypt's intelligence chief met a Palestinian delegation in Cairo, the state news agency MENA said, a day after he conferred with Israeli representatives. The Palestinian team, led by an official from Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, includes envoys from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group.
"The indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis are moving forward," one Egyptian official said, making clear that the opposing sides were not meeting face to face. "It is still too early to talk about outcomes but we are optimistic."
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told reporters his country was working hard for a deal and sought "solutions to protect the Palestinian people and their interests".
An Israeli official said Israel "has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms" beyond a Friday deadline for the three-day deal that took effect on Tuesday.
A senior Hamas political leader based in Cairo, Moussa Abu Marzouk, said on Twitter late on Wednesday night that "there is no agreement" to prolong the ceasefire.
"Extending the 72-hour calm for another period was not discussed (with Hamas in Cairo today)," said Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza.