Ramallah, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Cairo-mediated negotiations with Israel over Gaza have yet to reach the “point of no return,” a Palestinian diplomat informed Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday, just hours before the Palestinian and Israeli sides escalated the conflict after a 72-hour ceasefire expired.
Israel launched more than 20 aerial strikes on Gaza on Saturday, killing at least five Palestinians, including a child. Palestinian factions also fired at least a dozen rockets into Israel as the conflict entered its second month.
There were also worrying signs of tensions in the occupied West Bank after a Palestinian man, aged 43, was shot and killed during a confrontation with an Israeli soldier in the city of Hebron, medical officials said. Earlier, Israeli soldiers killed another Palestinian man, aged 20, on Friday at a protest near a Jewish settlement outside Ramallah.
The latest deaths raise the Palestinian death toll to almost 1,900, according to international media. Tel Aviv has said that a total of 67 Israelis have been killed in the fighting, including three civilians.
A member of the Palestinian delegation team in Cairo, speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat on Friday on the condition of anonymity, denied that the negotiations had failed, saying that all Palestinian demands are still on the table.
The source claimed that Hamas members of the Palestinian delegation refused to extend the 72-hour truce on Friday.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, speaking during a press conference on Friday, laid the blame for the failure to extend the ceasefire on Israel. “The Israeli occupation did not respond in a clear manner to the Palestinian demands.”
“The response that we received did not address our basic demands relating to a number of issues, including the re-release of prisoners [relating to the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap], the establishment of a port and airport and expansion of the fishing radius. Israeli stubbornness was responsible for the failure to extend the ceasefire,” he added.
However the Egyptian Foreign Ministry, in an official statement, indicated that the talks had been making progress. “There had been an agreement on the vast majority of matters that are important to the Palestinian people, but some limited points remained undecided, a matter that should have led to an acceptance to renew the ceasefire,” the Egyptian foreign ministry statement said.