GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israel and Hamas began observing a temporary cease-fire on Tuesday that sets the stage for talks in Egypt on a broader deal on the Gaza Strip, including a sustainable truce and the rebuilding of the battered, blockaded coastal territory.
Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza’s border areas, and both sides halted cross-border attacks as the three-day truce took effect at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) Tuesday. The shelling stopped and in Gaza City, where streets had been deserted during the war, traffic picked up and shops started opening doors.
If the calm holds, it would be the longest lull in almost a month of fighting that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians and 67 Israelis.
In coming days, Egyptian mediators plan to shuttle between Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo to try to work out new arrangements for Gaza.
As details of the Palestinian demands emerged, there were some signs that Hamas, which has ruled Gaza for seven years, is willing to let its former rival, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, take a lead in rebuilding the territory.
The Palestinian delegation in Cairo is led by one of Abbas’ confidants, but also includes members of Hamas and other factions.
On Monday, the delegation presented a joint list of demands to Egypt, said Hana Amireh, a West Bank-based PLO official who is in touch with the delegation.
The demands include a call for internationally funded reconstruction that would be overseen by an Abbas-led government that was formed in a unity deal with Hamas before the war.
Mohammed Mustafa, the West Bank-based deputy prime minister of the technocrat government, told The Associated Press that efforts are under way to arrange a pledging conference of donor countries in Norway at the beginning of September.
International Mideast envoy Tony Blair is part of efforts to arrange that gathering in Norway, Blair’s office said.
Hamas has not made any official statements but a senior Hamas official, Izzat Rishq, said late Monday that the Palestinian delegation, which includes Hamas, approved the demands handed to the Egyptians.
Israeli government officials were not available for comment. Israel TV’s Channel 10 said the Israeli delegation had not yet left for Cairo. The report said Israel wanted to make sure the cease-fire held before sending negotiators to Egypt.
Gaps between the Israeli and Palestinian positions are wide, and it’s not clear how much can be achieved once talks get under way.
The situation on the ground remains volatile, and any cease-fire violation could quickly derail the Cairo talks.
Any reconstruction plan would require a lifting of the Israeli-Egyptian border closure of Gaza, imposed after the violent Hamas takeover of the territory in 2007. The Palestinian delegation has told Egypt an end to the closure is key to any solution for Gaza.