Gaza truce extension fans hope of Cairo talks deal

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Gaza truce extension fans hope of Cairo talks deal
Palestinian Ziad Rizk, 38, center, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four poles next to one of the destroyed Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. A new temporary truce took hold, Monday, in the monthlong war pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants as negotiators from Israel and the Hamas militant group resumed indirect talks in Egypt on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Intisar al Masri, salvages items from the rubble of her family house, destroyed by Israeli strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Ahmad al Masri, sets up a shelter made of a blanket stretched on over the rubble of his family house, destroyed by Israeli strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Eman al Masri, 6, walks on the rubble as she salvages what she can from the debris of her family house, destroyed by Israeli strikes in the town of Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip, Tuesday, Aug. 12, 2014. A temporary Israel-Hamas truce was holding for a second day Tuesday as marathon, indirect negotiations on a lasting cease-fire and a long-term solution for the battered Gaza Strip were set to resume in Cairo. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinian Ziad Rizk, 38, sits with others in a shelter made of a blanket stretched over four poles next to one of the destroyed Nada Towers, where he lost his apartment and clothes shop, in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. A new temporary truce took hold, Monday, in the monthlong war pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants as negotiators from Israel and the Hamas militant group resumed indirect talks in Egypt on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A power plant worker cuts through twisted burned out metal near damaged fuel tanks on August 13, 2014 in the south of Gaza City at the sole power plant in Gaza which was knocked out of commission due to Israeli shelling on July 29. Plant workers are working on repairing the damage to the plant in an effort to restore some power across homes in the Gaza strip. Egyptian mediators raced to bridge gaps between Palestinians and Israelis as they struggled to secure a lasting Gaza truce ahead of the midnight expiry of a three-day ceasefire, an official said. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Power plant workers try to remove burned out twisted metal from a basin near damaged fuel tanks on August 13, 2014 in the south of Gaza City at the sole power plant in Gaza which was knocked out of commission due to Israeli shelling on July 29. Plant workers are working on repairing the damage to the plant in an effort to restore some power across homes in the Gaza strip. Egyptian mediators raced to bridge gaps between Palestinians and Israelis as they struggled to secure a lasting Gaza truce ahead of the midnight expiry of a three-day ceasefire, an official said. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
Ziad Assam walks on rubble inside an apartment complex where he used to live and that was heavily damaged in fighting between Israel and Hamas during over 4 weeks of fighting in northern Gaza strip a few miles away from the border with Israel on August 13, 2014. The UN estimates that about 10,000 homes were destroyed in the fighting that began on July 8. Indirect negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis for a truce in Gaza resumed on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said, as the clock ticked towards the midnight expiry of a three-day halt to hostilities. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
A Palestinian shepherd leads his flock of sheep past an apartment complex that was heavily damaged in fighting between Israel and Hamas during over 4 weeks of fighting in northern Gaza strip a few miles away from the border with Israel on August 13, 2014. The UN estimates that about 10,000 homes were destroyed in the fighting that began on July 8. Indirect negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis for a truce in Gaza resumed on Wednesday, a Palestinian official said, as the clock ticked towards the midnight expiry of a three-day halt to hostilities. AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)
RAFAH, GAZA STRIP, PALESTINE - 2014/08/11: Palestinian family sit around their destructed house and nearby chicken farm after an Israeli air strike hit Rafah in the Southern of Gaza strip. Israeli negotiators were in Cairo for talks to end the month-old Gaza war with Palestinian militants, according to an Israeli government official, after a new 72-hours truce brokered by Egypt still on-hold. (Photo by Ibrahim Khatib/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A Palestinian man inspects the damage of his flat in the destroyed Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. A new temporary truce took hold, Monday, in the monthlong war pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants as negotiators from Israel and the Hamas militant group resumed indirect talks in Egypt on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A full moon is seen next to the destroyed Nada Towers residential neighborhood in the town of Beit Lahiya, northern Gaza Strip, Monday, Aug. 11, 2014. As A new temporary truce took hold, Monday, in the monthlong war pitting the Israeli military against rocket-firing Hamas militants as negotiators from Israel and the Hamas militant group resumed indirect talks in Egypt on Monday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
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By MOHAMMED DARAGHMEH

CAIRO (AP) - A five-day extension of a Gaza truce appeared to be holding despite a rocky start on Thursday, fanning cautious optimism of progress in the negotiations underway in Cairo between Israel and major Palestinian factions, including Hamas.

It's the longest cease-fire yet since the war broke out last month in the Gaza Strip. The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Israel has lost 67 people, all but three of them soldiers.

Violence briefly spiked as the extension of a previous, 72-hour truce was announced shortly before midnight on Wednesday. The extension is to last until midnight on Monday.

Israel's military said eight Hamas rockets were launched at Israel but that the firing stopped in the early hours of Thursday morning. Israel retaliated with airstrikes on rockets and rocket-launching sites in Gaza, the military said.

Gaza police said it recorded 17 Israeli strikes but that no casualties were reported.

Gaza Truce Extended for Five Days

Palestinian negotiators in Cairo expressed optimism that a deal to create a sustainable roadmap for the war-torn territory could soon be achieved.

Hamas is seeking an end to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel wants Hamas to disarm, or at least be prevented from re-arming. Hamas has recovered from previous rounds of violence with Israel, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of several thousands of rockets, some with long ranges and relatively heavy payloads.

In Cairo, Hamas official Izzat al-Rishiq official said agreement on some points in a long-term deal had already been reached, but that additional time was needed to hammer out a comprehensive agreement.

"We are holding onto our demands to open the seaport and the airport in Gaza so we can end the blockade once and for all," he said, referring to what has been a key Hamas demand in the talks for two links with the outside world.

Al-Rishiq said Hamas negotiators were leaving Cairo on Thursday for consultations in the Qatari capital of Doha, the first time they have been permitted to fly directly from that airport since a military-backed government took over in Egypt last year, replacing an Islamist president whose Muslim Brotherhood group was closely allied with Hamas.

That could be a sign that Egypt's new anti-Hamas leadership is satisfied with the degree of flexibility that Hamas and other Palestinian negotiators are demonstrating in the current talks with Israel.

Egypt has positioned itself as the key mediator in the talks, but its tough anti-Hamas policies could limit its effectiveness. The tiny Gulf Arab nation of Qatar is seen as a conduit for Hamas demands. It hosts several senior Hamas leaders and has staunchly opposed the Egypt-Israel blockade of the Palestinian coastal strip.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment on the progress of Cairo talks.

Related:
Timeline of the War in Gaza
Political Conflict of 2014
United Nations
Civilian Casualties in Gaza
Hamas
Saudi Arabia's Economy

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