Middle East

Gaza: Israeli-Palestinian indirect talks begin in Cairo

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionThe BBC's Jon Donnison said Gaza had "come back to life" during the ceasefire

Indirect talks between Israeli and Palestinian representatives are taking place in the Egyptian capital Cairo.

They come after a four-week conflict in Gaza that has claimed more than 1,900 lives.

Egyptian mediators are shuttling between the two delegations, relaying each side's demands.

A 72-hour truce is now in its second day in Gaza, the longest lull in fighting since the conflict began on 8 July.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has called for an end to the "senseless cycle of suffering" in Gaza.

Speaking at the General Assembly in New York, he strongly criticised Israel for shelling UN compounds during its offensive.

He said that while there were reports of Hamas rockets being fired from near UN premises, the "mere suspicion of militant activity does not justify jeopardising the lives and safety of many thousands of innocent civilians".

US Secretary of State John Kerry has urged both sides to use the ceasefire to move towards broader negotiations.

Mr Kerry told the BBC that the situation could "concentrate people's minds" on the need to negotiate a two-state solution.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans have been returning to their homes.

The BBC's Jon Donnison, in Gaza City, says many people have found nothing left.

Israel-Gaza conflict

8 July

Israeli offensive began

  • 4,760+ air strikes on Gaza

    3,488 rockets fired at Israel

    • 1,973 people killed in Gaza

      UN estimates +70% of deaths are civilians

    • 3 civilians killed in Israel

      64 Israeli soldiers killed


Analysis: Kevin Connolly, BBC News Jerusalem

Both sides are already acting as though this ceasefire will stick - Israel is re-opening southern road and rail routes, and people in Gaza are starting to move around more freely.

Faced with the alternative of making difficult concessions, the two sides may yet conclude that the current grudging truce is the best that can be achieved for now and that it's enough.

If this latest round of fighting ends in that way, it seems certain to pave the way to another round sometime in the future.

Analysis: Will the ceasefire last?

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionA humanitarian truce is holding in Gaza - James Robbins looks at whether it represents a victory for Israeli tactics

The Palestinian delegation at the Cairo talks includes negotiators from Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, as well as members of Islamic Jihad and the Palestinian Authority.

The names of those representing Israel have not been given.

The main Palestinian demands include the end of Israel's blockade of Gaza and the opening of border crossings. They will also want internationally funded reconstruction.

Senior Hamas official Izzat Rishq told AP: "We'd take the life of anyone who tries to take the weapons of resistance."

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said 90% of the casualties in Gaza could have been avoided if Hamas had accepted a ceasefire proposed in Cairo on 15 July.

In a news conference, he said Hamas accepted the same proposal on 4 August, by which time the death toll had risen from 185 to more than 1,800.

In other developments:

  • Britain, France and Germany are working to re-activate an EU mission at the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, sources say. The aim of the mission - which ran from 2005 to 2007 - was to allow the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza but to prevent the import of weapons.
  • Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair and UN special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process Robert Serry are due to hold talks with Egyptian officials later on Wednesday.
  • Norway is organising a donor conference to help fund Gaza's reconstruction.
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are returning to what's left of their homes
Image copyright EPA
Image caption Israeli troops have moved to positions outside Gaza

At the scene: Jon Donnison, Gaza

Hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians in Gaza have been returning to their homes. Many have found nothing left.

We met the Za'Noun family in Beit Hanoun, one of the worst affected areas right on the border with Israel. Their family home has been destroyed for the third time.

The Za'Nouns will rebuild again. "Where else can we go?" Khalil Za'Noun, 80, asked me.

One of his 34 grandchildren, Mohammed, has already lived through four wars in his short life. He's just 14.

But this will not be the last war in Gaza. This truce is only a short-term fix. None of the big issues between Israelis and Palestinians has been fixed.

'Bigger, broader approach'

John Kerry told the BBC that the US fully supported Israel's right to defend itself against militant rocket attacks, but also supported Palestinians' desire for more freedoms and a better standard of living.

Mr Kerry said a "bigger, broader approach to the underlying solution of two states" was needed - one that would provide security for Israel and "a better life and greater freedoms for the Palestinians".

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionUS Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking to BBC Hardtalk: "There has to be a giving on both sides"


UN situation report, 20 August


injured, including 3,084 children


people displaced

  • 103,000 people have lost their homes

  • 17,200 houses destroyed or severely damaged

  • 216 schools damaged


Return to rubble

The 72-hour truce came into effect at 08:00 local time (05:00 GMT) on Tuesday.

Israel withdrew all forces to positions outside Gaza - and many Gazans began to return.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July with the stated aim of ending rocket attacks and destroying tunnels used by Palestinian militants.

The latest figures from Gaza's health ministry list 1,867 deaths, mostly civilians. Some 64 Israeli soldiers, three civilians and a Thai national in Israel have died.

Gaza's Deputy Economy Minister Taysir Amro said the cost could be up to $6bn (£3.55bn).

Separately, Israel has revealed it has arrested a Palestinian suspected of involvement in the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in June. Hussam Qawasmeh was arrested on 11 July.

The deaths and subsequent apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager were key factors in escalating tension.