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Progress being made in Gaza truce talks

An agreement seems to be on the table as reports suggest that Israel has agreed to cease its closure in Gaza.

FILE: An agreement seems to be on the table as reports suggest that Israel has agreed to cease its closure in Gaza. Picture: AFP.

GAZA/TEL AVIV - Progress is being made in Cairo where Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have been meeting to try and hammer out a long-term peace deal.

A source close to the Palestinian delegation says the talks have been continuously ongoing since on Monday, with Egyptian mediation and no set schedule.

An agreement seems to be on the table as reports suggest that Israel has agreed to cease its closure on the Gaza Strip and also transfer salaries to the Hamas government for a third party.

Israel will also gradually expand the fishing area of the Gaza coast and construction materials will be expected to enter Gaza under close supervision.

Another issue close to agreement is that Israel plans to double the number of trucks entering Gaza through one of the border crossings to about 600 trucks a day.

But sticking points remain.

Hamas also wants the opening of a Mediterranean seaport for impoverished Gaza, a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased.

Neighbouring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.

Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug for cross-border attacks.

It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild those tunnels.

The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had consented that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.

Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organisation.

Hamas for its part is sworn to Israel's destruction.

Gaza hospital officials have said 1,938 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the 8 July launch of Israel's military campaign to quell rocket and mortar fire from the enclave into its towns.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, one of them a Thai farm worker, while the heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians are squeezed into a narrow urbanised enclave, have drawn international condemnation.

According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 displaced people in the Gaza Strip are in emergency shelters or staying with host families. Nearly 12,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli air strikes and heavy shelling.

Israel aims to build a network of sensors to try to detect any further tunnel building but it could take months to prove the scheme works and in the meantime re-invasions are possible to destroy tunnels, a senior army officer said.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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