CAIRO (AP) — Israel and the Hamas militant group on Sunday accepted a renewed Egyptian cease-fire proposal, clearing the way for the resumption of talks on a long-term truce meant to end a month of heavy fighting in the Gaza Strip that has taken nearly 2,000 lives.
The announcement marked the second time in less than a week that the bitter enemies had agreed to Egyptian mediation. A similar 72-hour truce last week collapsed in renewed violence over the weekend.
In Cairo, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said the truce would take effect at midnight (2101 GMT) and would create the atmosphere to resume humanitarian aid to the battered Gaza Strip and allow for indirect talks on a more lasting and comprehensive deal.
Hamas is seeking an end to a painful Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, while Israel wants Hamas to dismantle its formidable arsenal of rockets and other weapons.
Palestinian negotiators, who had been meeting with Egyptian officials throughout the weekend, said early Sunday that they accepted the proposal. Later Sunday, Israeli officials announced their agreement. Both Israeli and Palestinian delegations are back in Cairo.
Qais Abdelkarim, a member of the Palestinian delegation, said indirect talks with the Israelis would begin on Monday morning.
"We are going to engage in serious talks in the 72 hours to end the blockade and deliver humanitarian materials into Gaza with the hope of reaching a lasting cease-fire," he said. The goal, he added, was to end the blockade, which he called "the reason for the war."
The Egyptian-mediated talks are aimed at reaching a long-term arrangement following the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group took control of Gaza in 2007.