Egypt has invited Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority for separate talks that aim at consolidating the cease-fire that ended an 11-day war between Israel and the Gaza Strip's militant Hamas rulers, an Egyptian intelligence official said Thursday. The talks would also focus on accelerating the reconstruction process in Gaza.
“We are seeking a long-term truce, that would enable further discussions and possibly direct talks,” said the official, who had close knowledge of the proceedings that had led to the ceasefire and who spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't. allowed to brief reporters.
The 11-day war killed more than 250 people, mostly Palestinians, and caused heavy destruction in the impoverished coastal territory. Preliminary estimates have put the damage in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Egypt was key in mediating a deal between the two sides.
He said the talks could start as early as next week, and that Israel has given their initial approval, but that a final agenda is still in the works. He said that there are talks about a possible release of Palestinian prisoners in Israel in return for Israelis held by Hamas. Both issues were discussed with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his visit yesterday, and with the Qatari Foreign Minister who was in Cairo on Tuesday.
An Israeli official said that the government is working closely with Egyptian officials 'to reinforce the cease-fire,' but would not confirm whether Israeli officials would be attending more official talks soon. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was discussing behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
Blinken wrapped up a two-day Mideast visit Wednesday also aimed at solidifying the ceasefire and raising money for reconstruction. One of the U.S. goals is to ensure that any assistance be kept out of the hands of Hamas, which opposes Israel's right to exist and which Israel and the U.S. consider a terrorist group.