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Gaza: New ceasefire effective as talks continue

Israel and Palestine are holding talks in Egypt after a new ceasefire went into effect on Monday.

Israel and Palestine are due to hold talks in Egypt after a new ceasefire went into effect on Monday. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG/GAZA - Talks between Israelis and Palestinians are back on track after a new three-day ceasefire between Israel and Hamas went into effect at midnight.

The United Nations has welcomed the lull in fighting and is pushing for a long-term deal.

After days of frantic mediation, the Israeli negotiation team arrived in Cairo late on Sunday night just before the latest ceasefire went into effect.

Israel pulled its negotiators out on Friday after a previous 72-hour truce ended that morning and met renewed rocket fire from Gaza.

The Israeli team has repeatedly insisted it will not negotiate under fire.

Over the weekends Israel carried out several dozen airstrikes in Gaza, a 10-year-old child and a teenager were among those killed.

Just moment before the latest truce went into effect, a large number of rockets were fired at south and central Israel.

ALMOST 2,000 KILLED

A month of war has killed 1,910 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of densely populated Gaza.

A Hamas official said on Sunday Palestinian factions had accepted Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that these new negotiations would be "the last chance" for a deal.

Hamas has demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave - a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.

Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged "both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement".

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said in a radio interview on Monday that disarming Gaza militants was crucial to sustain a long-term truce and he hoped this could be done by diplomacy rather than force.

"I certainly hope that there will be a diplomatic solution. If there will not be a diplomatic solution, I am convinced that sooner or later we will have to opt for a military solution of taking temporary control of Gaza to demilitarise it again," he told Israel Radio.

In Gaza, shops began to open and traffic was normal as displaced families returned to the homes they had been forced to abandon during Israeli attacks, expressing hopes that this truce would last after a series of failed ceasefires.

"God knows if it is permanent," said Abu Salama, a resident of Gaza's Shejaia district, as he and his family headed home on a donkey cart.

"A truce, no truce, it is becoming like Tom and Jerry. We want a solution," he said.

The new three-day ceasefire won praise from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who hoped it might lead to a durable ceasefire.

GIFT OF THE GIVERS

Meanwhile, the Egyptian government is today expected to decide if it's going to allow local aid group Gift of the Givers permission to cross its borders into Gaza.

The group wants to assists in relief aid efforts in the region following weeks of bloody fighting between Hamas and Israel.

The organisation says it has already spent more than R4 million on humanitarian aid and has pledged more support as violence continues in the region.

The aid agency's chief Imtiaz Sooliman says they will move ahead as soon as they have been given a green light to cross the Egyptian border.

"We've put together a whole plane that we're chattering with R15 million worth of suppliers, that's include medical equipment."

He says they are travelling a team of about 80 personnel and will be assisting in searching for the bodies of those still trapped under the rubble.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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