News / Middle East

Israel-Hamas Cease-Fire Holding, Truce Talks to Open in Cairo

  • An Israeli soldier gestures from atop a tank after crossing the border back into Israel. Israel pulled its ground forces out of the Gaza Strip at the start of a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas, Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Palestinians sit on the remains of their destroyed homes after returning to Beit Hanoun, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip, Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • An Israeli soldier from the Nahal Brigade carries his weapon after returning to Israel from Gaza, Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Palestinians look at destroyed houses after returning to the Shejaia neighborhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, east of Gaza City, Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Israeli soldiers fire a mortar shell towards the Gaza Strip, near the Israel - Gaza border, Aug. 4, 2014. 
  • Mohammed al-Bakri brings the body of his three-year-old son Kamal to the boy's wounded mother, Dua, at the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Aug. 5, 2014. 
  • Relatives take the bodies of four Palestinians, who relatives say were killed in a missile strike, from the hospital for burial, in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip, Aug. 4, 2014.
  • Smoke rises over Gaza City after an Israeli strike, minutes before 8 am (0500 GMT), the time agreed for a preliminary 72-hour cease-fire, on Aug. 5, 2014. 
VOA News

Israeli and Palestinian delegations are in Cairo for truce talks as a 72 hour cease-fire in Gaza appears to be holding for a second day.

U.S. and U.N. diplomats will join the talks on a longer term truce. The discussions also are expected to deal with underlying issues that led to a month of Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

No one expects the talks to be easy. Israel is demanding that Gaza be demilitarized, while Hamas insists Israel and Egypt end their long-standing blockades of Gaza.

Gaza residents took advantage of the calm to visit shattered homes and stores, looking to salvage whatever is left of their lives. Many neighborhoods are unrecognizable piles of ruins.

More than 1,800 Palestinians were killed over the last month, mostly civilians. Sixty-four Israeli solders and three civilians died.

Israeli ground forces have retreated from Gaza, but remain on the defensive.

In New York, Jordan has circulated a Security Council resolution calling for a permanent cease-fire, lifting Israel's blockade of Gaza, and a global effort to rebuild the area.

Residents skeptical

Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful yet skeptical about the truce. Several attempted cease-fires have failed, including last Friday, when what was supposed to be a three-day truce ended in just two hours.

The shelling devastated Gaza's infrastructure, leveling residential buildings, schools and businesses. As the cease-fire took hold Tuesday morning, many Gazans left shelters to find rubble where their homes once stood.

And, just minutes before the truce took hold early Tuesday, both Israel and Hamas engaged in a display of firepower, seemingly determined to have the last word before putting down their weapons.

Sirens wailed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv as Hamas fired 16 rockets over the border, while Israeli warplanes staged at least five air strikes on Gaza.

Inshirah Masser walked over piles of debris that used to be her home in the Gazan city of Beit Hanoun, unsure where her family will live now.

"Look at our houses and our children, everything is destroyed, four apartments, all my children are stranded in the schools, where are we supposed to go?" Masser asked.

After seeking shelter in a U.N. school, Ibrahim El Zaim worried how long the cease-fire would be maintained. By the time he returned home after the last short-lived truce, shelling had already begun.

"I heard there was a truce and I hope it is a long-lasting one because they said there was a truce before and we left, but 5 minutes after we got home, the air strikes started," El Zaim said. "God-willing, this time they will be true to their word and this would be a real truce so we can be safe in our homes."

The 72-hour break in fighting isn't enough for Israeli resident Yaakov Argentaro, who said a shell hit his home shortly before the cease-fire.

"It's my daughter's room behind me. It was directly hit in the salvo that was shot [by Gaza militants] a few minutes before 8 a.m.," Argentaro said.

"Since we, as a community, have been experiencing it for the past 15 years, as far as we are concerned, it's intolerable," Argentaro said. "I need a cease-fire for 15 years. If there won't be a cease-fire for 15 years, as far as I'm concerned it's not a cease-fire. We live in fear."

Cease-fire terms

According to the 72-hour truce brokered by Egypt, Israel and Hamas will hold indirect talks in Cairo on a formula for a long-term cease-fire. But the gaps are wide.

Israel said it wants the disarming of Hamas, which has fired thousands of rockets into Israel in recent weeks. It said any loosening of the blockade must still ensure that Hamas does not import weapons or weapons-producing material.

Hamas is demanding Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza, end its blockade of the coastal enclave, release Palestinian prisoners, and provide other assistance for residents who already faced a humanitarian crisis before the fighting began.

Israel has also come under international criticism for a Sunday airstrike in the southern Gaza town of Rafah that killed at least 10 civilians who had sought shelter in a United Nations school.

The U.S. State Department on Monday urged both parties to "completely" respect the latest truce effort, saying it could help lead to a more durable solution.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also praised the truce, saying talks should commence "as soon as possible" and deal with "underlying issues."

War crimes charge

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki, a representative of the Palestinian Authority (PA), denounced what he called Israel's "atrocities" against Gaza to International Criminal Court prosecutors at The Hague.

After meeting International Criminal Court prosecutors on Tuesday, al-Malki told reporters that “everything that has happened in the last 28 days is clear evidence of war crimes committed by Israel, amounting to crimes against humanity."

He said, "There is no difficulty for us to show or build the case. Evidence is there ... Israel is in clear violation of international law.”

Malki visited The Hague shortly after Israel and the Palestinian Islamist Hamas movement that rules Gaza entered a 72-hour truce mediated by Egypt.

He called for a thorough investigation into actions on both sides of the conflict.

"If it really entails actions committed by certain Palestinian groups, then we are ready to accept that consequences, absolutely, but nothing is compared, nothing is compared, nothing is compared to the atrocities, the carnage, committed by Israel against the innocent Palestinians in Gaza," al-Malki said.

The Palestinian government would have to join the ICC for the international legal body to review the allegations.

Malki said the Palestinians aimed to formally joint the ICC to open the legal avenue for an investigation. He said he had discussed with prosecutors a timeline to apply, though the duality of the PA governing the West Bank and its political rival Hamas ruling Gaza may impede the application process.

Israel and the Palestinians traded accusations of war crimes during the Israeli military onslaught into Gaza, during which Hamas kept up rocket fire into the Jewish state, while defending their own actions as consistent with international law.

Last week, the United Nations launched an inquiry into human rights violations and crimes alleged to have been committed by Israel during the offensive given the far higher toll of civilian death and physical destruction on the Palestinian side.

Israel declined public comment, but a senior Israeli official who asked to be identified said any ICC legal action against Israel over the Gaza conflict would prompt an Israeli counter-suit at the ICC against the Palestinians.

But given that neither Israel nor the Palestinians are members of the ICC, the court would have no jurisdiction over Gaza at this time.

This could be granted in a U.N. Security Council resolution, but Israel's main ally, the United States, would have the power to veto any such proposal.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.

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Comments page of 3
by: Scotty-d from: Los Angeles
August 06, 2014 11:58 AM
The Geneva Convention does not afford protection to "Innocents" if combatants use them as "Human shields." Yet, Israel did much to prevent civilian deaths by using leaflets, reverse 911 like technology, knocking on roof tops, broadcasts, etc...

by: JohnWV from: USA
August 06, 2014 6:25 AM
There is clear and abundant evidence of blatant war crimes against Palestinian Gaza committed by Israel that amount to crimes against humanity. The Jewish state should be tried before International Criminal Court prosecutors at The Hague. But our bought by Jews government is certain to veto any UN Security Council Indictment.

by: Yuval Brandstetter
August 06, 2014 1:54 AM
The question of where to go after the rubble is back where she came from which is the arab world. If the Arabs think showing off thier misery on the one hand and raining rockets on the Jews on the other hand will deter the Jews from living in their own land, they are wrong. The Arabs use the so-called Pallies as cannon-fodder instead of taking them in and giving them a home as did Israel to all the Jews. Europe is deathly afraid of another source of Arab emigration, that is why they will do anything and say anything to keep them cooped up with Israel.

by: truthteller from: hell
August 06, 2014 1:33 AM
they are giving you lies here at voice of america and i am a American so go to they tell the truth and our government don't like it when say anything true and now there trying to censoring me now on here
In Response

by: SriPeace from: Canada
August 06, 2014 10:01 AM
Glad to know that we're permitted to tell the truth without sensoring from 'the Hell' which we choose to live in. I wonder why don't we mass murder in this part of the world - is it a god's gift?

by: Lance Loadburp from: USA
August 06, 2014 12:04 AM
Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” campaign motivated me to say something. Since that’s the purpose of this tax payer funded behavior modification program, consider this a rare government success story.

I see a world being led by the least among us, while the best continue to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The biggest threat facing our country is not terrorism, the debt, drugs, poverty, healthcare, immigration, climate change, abortion, gay rights, racism, school shootings, the militarization of the police, the privatization of the military, or even the wave of biological time bombs walking across our southern border and being escorted to Everytown USA. To anyone looking for a campaign slogan:

“It’s the corruption stupid!”

To the saber rattlers looking for the next wars to fight, might I suggest corruption, abuse of power, and ignorance? Ignorance is fought by simply shining a light on the other two, something our mainstream media has forgotten. Thanks to the internet and the citizen journalist, that darkness is being pierced. How can we even have honest debates about the troubles facing our nation when the people in power control the debate, yet lost their credibility long ago? Where is the moral high ground in a bottomless pit? It can be found in pockets of excellence across the country throughout our government institutions. Honest people who simply give a damn (I refuse to call them “whistleblowers”), saw something and said something at the VA, IRS, DHS and the State Department, yet our “leaders” will expend more resources investigating them or conducting bogus investigations more intent on damage control than holding anyone accountable. The fact that no one from any of these institutions has even been arrested as a result of the corruption and abuse of power that we already know about, is proof alone that the President and the Attorney General belong in jail.

by: Dr. Melvin Diarrhea from: USA
August 06, 2014 12:03 AM
What should we expect when the head of Homeland Security publicly states that he is impressed with the “integrity” of his Chief of Staff, a man who testified against his father-in-law (a state senator who went to prison on 137 corruption charges) to keep from going to prison himself? As the NSA turns the whole planet into “The Truman Show”, we’re told to not be alarmed because federally appointed judges are watching them in secret FISA courts. Hopefully, not someone like Judge Samuel Kent who went to prison on charges he abused his power and lied to cover up sexual assaults on two women who worked for him. He told one of them, “I am the Government. I’m the Lion King. It’s good to be king. I’m the Emperor of Galveston, the man wearing the horned hat, guiding the ship.”

Despite basic human fallibility and corruptibility, we allow our “leaders” to claim more and more authority over our lives. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the President has already claimed and exercised the authority to kill any American citizen, without due process, simply by claiming that he or she is a “terrorist”. If you’re not a terrorist, you’ve got nothing to worry about. But what if the most powerful man in the Senate thinks you are, and says so publicly? I’m sure Cliven Bundy is thankful that Harry Reid isn’t the President. Some of our “leaders” should be more careful about the way they throw around the “T-word” lest they be forced to look in the mirror.

It’s quite possible that any armed revolution that some fear is coming, could be avoided by simply fighting a “cold war” on corruption instead. Unconventional battles could be fought at the water coolers, cubicles and conference rooms of our bureaucracies as well as the courts. The weapons would include emails, memos and other documents. The warriors will be the government employees who stand up because they are inspired by and follow the lofty mission statements that provide the moral guidance for all of their agencies’ actions. One of the most crucial steps in the Military Decision Making Process is “Mission Analysis” and involves taking a very comprehensive look at the mission you’ve been given, in order to ensure that you understand completely what is expected of you and your people. Commanders go to great lengths to make them as clear as possible, so that even an individual separated from the group, and in the absence of any further guidance, will know how best to act in any given situation. A commander will also personally write a “Commander’s Intent” which offers even further clarifying guidance. I challenge every government employee to go and read your organization’s mission statement and then act accordingly. If the mission has changed, then demand a new one be written, and update the website so we can all see what it really is.

If more and more honest people who give a damn banded together and took back our institutions, then our “leaders” would suddenly realize that no one is following, and they would be disarmed of their weapon of power which is WE THE PEOPLE who actually run those institutions and drive those Bearcats.

There, I said something. Now, go get your horned hat and take back the ship.

by: Anonymous
August 05, 2014 9:25 PM
It's over for Hamas. They lost their tunnels and will shortly run out of rockets which are already useless against Iron dome. Egypt was a real game changer by killing Hamas terrorists in the Sinai and blocking the importation of Iranian weaponry.

by: D.Reuben from: Coeur d'Alene
August 05, 2014 6:51 PM
It seems no one in Washington has the balls to take on Israel. Since when did this country become so cowardly that it does not stand by its principles? Like all peoples of the world, the people of Gaza have a right to be free. They've been pushed to the coast, held under occupation for decades upon decades, their children continue to be murdered, and then they are blamed if they get annoyed about that. And the leader of the free world plays a round of golf. Shame.

by: Thom H from: USA
August 05, 2014 1:41 PM
So, a couple thousand Palestinians are now dead. Is that enough sacrifice for them to get their own nation, or do they have to live in subjugation for another sixty years?
In Response

by: John from: UK
August 06, 2014 4:52 AM
In Response

by: Curatica from: USA
August 05, 2014 6:45 PM
The vampires want blood and the Jews want the entire Palestine. There will never be a Palestinian country--at least not in this world.

Tragic but true.
In Response

August 05, 2014 5:40 PM
a couple 1000 this time plus a few 1000 last time...lets not forget the other time..or the time before the other time...or wait the time before you received your education in lack of common sense
In Response

by: meanbill from: USA
August 05, 2014 5:36 PM
The US and Europeans must forever bear the guilt of the Jewish holocaust, and standby, while the Israeli's do to the Palestinians, what the Nazis did to their Jewish ancestors..... The US and Europe feel guilt, for standing by while Hitler killed all those innocent Jews, (and now), the US and Europeans stand by, while Israel kills all those innocent Palestinians..... CRAZY isn't it?

by: voice for logic from: Europe
August 05, 2014 1:38 PM
Not forgetting that Israel was only formed in 1948, by no less than the United Nations They said they were returning the Jews to their land that they lived on 2000 years previously and were forced off by the Romans. Where is the legal precedence for such an act ? Did they or the Jews ever compensate the Palestinians ? If such an act was legal, then it would be legal to return Australia to the Aborigines and America and Canada to the American Indians. I wonder what they would have to say about that ?

The problem is not about tunnels and rockets; it is about who rightfully owns the land know known as Israel. Which the Palestinians have been forced to accept How much compensation did the UN give - if any ? how much compensation has Israel given for their illegal expansion ? They can have all the cease fires they like, but until they address the real problem the fighting will continue. Who is the biggest backer and armer of Israel ? America. Wouldn't you fight if somebody kicked you of your land and it was given to someone else ? I am damn sure you would.
In Response

by: Ray from: CT
August 05, 2014 7:55 PM
The land for Israel was purchased, just like the Louisiana purchase... know your history. By the way, I do not see any Mexicans trying to hurt anyone over it.
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