Palestinians: Despite new report of rockets, Gaza cease-fire is extended
POSTED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 6:17pm
UPDATED: Wednesday, August 13, 2014 - 6:18pm
GAZA (CNN) — It's fragile, potentially falling apart at any moment. But -- if all holds -- there could be relative peace in and and around Gaza into next week.
Despite the reported firing of at least one more rocket from Gaza toward Israel, not to mention Palestinian claims that Israel violated a deal by firing warning shots at fishermen, the cease-fire in the region will continue.
Azzam al-Ahmed, head of the Palestinian delegation involved in talks in Cairo, said the cease-fire should last another five days, from midnight (5 p.m. ET Wednesday).
As senior Hamas member Izzat Risheq explained to CNN, the extension is meant "to give more time to reach an agreement on the issues between the two parties."
Will the extra time lead to a major breakthrough, resolving the issues that have divided Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza -- or at least succeed in calming the tensions between the two sides?
Time will tell. But the fact that -- after more than a month of violence that left over 2,000 people dead, most of them civilians in Gaza -- this cease-fire didn't unravel like many others have gives some reason for optimism.
More rockets, dispute over Palestinian fishermen
Any extension shouldn't be confused with widespread agreement.
Take, for example, claims on their websites by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad that Israel violated the 72-hour cease-fire -- which had been set to expire at midnight -- by firing on Palestinian fishermen.
Nizar Ayesh, head of the Gaza fishermen's union, told CNN that Israel's navy fired into the air Wednesday morning at about 35 fishermen. There were no injuries reported, "but the fishermen had to go out to sea because they are poor and want to make some money and bring food to their families," Ayesh said.
The Israeli military confirmed that it fired "warning shots" after "a Palestinian boat" went into part of the Mediterranean Sea that Israel considers "a closed military area."
Then there was the renewed rocket attack from"Gaza terrorists" that struck in the Hof Ashkelon area of southern Israel on Wednesday night, according to an Israeli military spokesman.
There were no initial reports of injuries or damage. Hamas -- in a text message from spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri -- denied that it had anything to do with any rockets fired toward Israel on Wednesday.
Israel didn't appear overly alarmed.
"Just one rocket is probably something we can move on from," an Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity shortly before Palestinian officials announced a cease-fire deal.
The Israel Defense Forces later reported "four additional rockets" fired late Wednesday by "Gaza terrorists." There was no word on any injuries or damage from these, or whether they'd impact any cease-fire deal.
Stakes high as talks continue in Cairo
The two sides have been represented in Egypt, even if they haven't been talking face-to-face.
The core issues appear hard to easily overcome. Israel, as well as the United States and European Union, labels Hamas a terrorist organization; Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist.
Beyond that, the two sides have laid out competing versions of what they want.
The Palestinian delegation in Cairo, which includes Hamas, has demanded an end to Israel's economic blockade on Gaza, an extension of fishing rights off the coast, the reopening of an airport and seaport and the release of prisoners held by Israelis.
Israel says it wants Hamas to disarm and Gaza to be demilitarized.
The stakes are high for the residents of Gaza, where 1,962 people have been killed in the fighting, according to the United Nations. Around 72% of the dead are estimated to be civilians.
Stakes are also high for Israelis, who have been living in fear of the waves of rockets fired from Gaza and the militant attacks carried out through tunnels dug under the border.
Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system intercepted many of the roughly 3,500 rockets the Israeli military says have been launched from Gaza. But Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to send ground troops into Gaza during the conflict to destroy Hamas' network of tunnels, resulting in intensified fighting.
Israeli officials say 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed, as well as three civilians in Israel.
The Israel Defense Forces pulled its soldiers out of Gaza last week after they had demolished around 32 tunnels, but they remain positioned around the Palestinian territory.
Aid flows into Gaza
The lull in violence allowed Gaza residents to try to tackle some of the most urgent problems they face, including a lack of drinking water and leaking sewage pipes.
Aid groups said the situation remains dire, with more than 300,000 people estimated to have been displaced by the fighting in the small, densely populated enclave. The thousands of people wounded in the conflict have put a severe strain on medical resources.
During the cease-fire, people have attempted to stock up on badly needed supplies, which have been allowed in through reopened border crossings.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had brought in trucks of water, hundreds of mattresses, surgical equipment, food and household items like diapers.
Among the many families sheltering in U.N. schools, some are unable to return to their homes because they were destroyed, and others have been going back just for the day and returning to shelters at night. Some people feel it is too risky to leave shelters altogether, because so many of the previous cease-fires have failed.
Residents have also taken advantage of the calm to go out into the streets and visit beaches, parks and markets.
But dangers left by the conflict remain.
Despite the cease-fire, at least five people died and six were injured Wednesday when an Israeli rocket exploded as Gaza police bomb disposal technicians were working on it.
Among the dead were an Italian video journalist for The Associated Press and a Palestinian freelance translator working with him.
The AP identified the journalist as Simone Camilli, who had worked for the news service since 2005.
Meher El Halapi, chief of the police station in Shekh Zayed city, told CNN the explosion was the result of an accident during efforts to disarm the missile, which he said then exploded and set off another explosive nearby.
Earlier reports had indicated six people had died. It was unclear if those reports were in error.
CNN's Antonia Mortensen reported from Gaza, Reza Sayah reported from Cairo, and Greg Botelho reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN's Jethro Mullen, Sarah Sirgany, Ali Younes, John Vause, Andrew Carey and Martin Savidge contributed to this report.
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