Israel declares 7-hour humanitarian cease-fire to take effect Monday in Gaza

Israeli official: Hamas assurances on cease-fire are 'worthless'; No word yet on whether Israeli delegation will eventually be sent to Cairo for cease-fire talks.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz meet in Tel Aviv. (photo credit: ARIEL HERMONI / DEFENSE MINISTRY)
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu (R), Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, and IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz meet in Tel Aviv.
Israel said its military would hold fire in most of the Gaza Strip for seven hours on Monday to facilitate the entry of humanitarian aid and for displaced Palestinians to return to their homes, but would fight back if attacked.
The humanitarian truce, beginning at 10 a.m. local time, would not apply in areas of the southern Gaza town of Rafah where Israeli forces are still operating, a Defense Ministry official said in a statement.
In response, Hamas said it will not hold its fire during the seven-hour halt.
A spokesperson for the Islamist organization told the group's "Al-Aqsa" television network that the seven-hour cease-fire announced by the Israeli coordinator for government activities in the territories "was meant to divert world attention from the massacres committed by the occupation."
Israeli officials refused Sunday either to say whether an Israeli delegation would eventually be sent to Cairo to discuss a cease-fire agreement, or what Jerusalem thinks about the conditions being presented in Egypt by the Palestinian delegation.
Palestinian negotiators in Cairo are expected to present the Egyptians with a document detailing their conditions for a cease-fire with Israel.
One diplomatic official said that Israel did not feel a need to participate in the talks taking place in Cairo, because “there is a growing understanding in the international community that Hamas is not a serious party, and that the assurances it gives are worthless.”
He said that this sentiment was hammered home by Hamas’s violation of Friday’s c ease-fire agreement brokered by the US and the UN.
“There is a feeling among those who put in a lot of effort that Hamas is not serious,” the official said. “It is difficult to see them as a party to the cease-fire.”
Rather than concentrating on the developments in Cairo and cease-fire efforts, the official said Israel is determined to “act in our own interest, redeploy, and continue to defend ourselves.”
Nevertheless, it was clear that Israel is following the developments in Cairo closely.
The Palestinian document, which was drafted by representatives of Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups, calls, among other things, for a cease-fire in return for an immediate Israeli pullout from the Gaza Strip, Palestinian sources said.
The document calls for an end to Israeli “incursions, invasions, assassinations, house shelling and flights over the Gaza Strip,” the sources told the Palestinian news agency WAFA.
Palestinian demands include lifting the siege, reopening the border crossings and allowing construction material into the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians are demanding free passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, freedom of fishing within approximately 22 km. of the coast, reopening the Palestinian airport in the southern Gaza Strip, construction of a seaport and cancellation of buffer zones along the border with Israel.
The document calls for canceling all measures taken by Israel following the abduction and killing of three Israeli youths in the West Bank in June, including the release of all former prisoners who were rounded up by the IDF since then.
They are demanding that the Palestinian “national consensus” government, which was formed following the reconciliation agreement between Fatah and Hamas last April, embark on the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip in cooperation with the United Nations.
The document calls for donor countries to hold an international conference to discuss providing financial aid for rebuilding the Gaza Strip.
The Palestinian delegation, which is headed by Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmed, arrived in Cairo on Saturday night. On Sunday, Hamas and Islamic Jihad officials – who are not from the Gaza Strip – arrived in Cairo to join the delegation.
Hamas put many of these condition on the table in a cease-fire proposal put forward by Qatar and Turkey in the early days of Operation Protective Edge, summarily dismissed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who said Hamas had conditions “from here to Vladivostok” that would not be met.
US State Department official Frank Lowenstein and Quartet envoy Tony Blair arrived in Cairo to participate in efforts to achieve a cease-fire in Gaza.
The discussions in Cairo are focusing on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s cease-fire initiative, which was announced three weeks ago and accepted by Israel, but rejected by Hamas. That proposal called for a 48-hour cease-fire followed by indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas over a more sustainable deal.
Egyptian sources said that Egypt is “flexible toward any details that the Palestinian factions would find appropriate to add to the initiative whether directly or indirectly,” the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram reported.
“The Egyptian side explained many times in the past few days that the main aim is to put an end to the bloodshed in Gaza and end the severe conditions in which civilians there are living in,” the sources said.
According to the report, the negotiations that began on Sunday afternoon in Cairo would be held in three phases: Reaching an agreement between the Palestinian factions concerning the Egyptian initiative, indirect negotiations with Israel through Egyptian mediators to reach a cease-fire or truce and negotiating about the remaining matters, including the border crossings with the Gaza Strip.
Reuters contributed to this report.