Deputy secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad Ziad al-Nakhaala said on Aug. 11 that a long-term ceasefire that would include the lifting of the siege on Gaza would be announced soon, stressing that "great progress" had been made in negotiations. The announcement, which comes on the first day of a five-day ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants, raises hopes that a long-term truce will materialize after more than two weeks of negotiations that have so far yielded few results. The breakthrough comes after Israel reportedly dropped its demand that Palestinian militant groups inside Gaza disarm, while apparently acceding to demands by the Palestinian delegation that the eight-year long economic blockade of the Strip be lifted.
Al-Nakhaala said that progress had been made in the ongoing negotiations in Cairo, and that agreements had been reached on the opening of crossings into Gaza, facilitating the entry of goods, expanding the fishing zone, and ending the Israeli-imposed "security buffer zone" that encompasses nearly 20% of the Gaza Strip's territory. Al-Nakhaala also added that Israel had agreed to commence talks on the re-opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza in a month, a key Palestinian demand. Israel destroyed Gaza's only airport in 2001 and has imposed a limit of three nautical miles on all boats from the enclave, crippling the fishing industry and ensuring total Israeli blockade of Gaza's land, air, and sea entries.
Al-Nakhaala noted that despite the progress, Israel was still pushing back on certain demands, including the entry of construction materials. He added, however, that even this dispute could resolved with an agreement that the materials received be monitored by the Palestinian Authority.
More than 1,950 Palestinians—the vast majority civilians—have been killed in the five-week Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip, which the UN said destroyed or severely damaged the homes of more than 100,000 Gazans.
From Ma'an News Agency, Aug. 14