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Gaza Truce Holds Amid Report of Egypt Offer

As a truce between Israel and Gaza Strip militants stretched into a third day, details of a peace proposal that includes the opening of border crossings emerged during talks in Cairo to find a lasting settlement.

The five-day cease-fire that started on Aug. 14 offered respite from a conflict that killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, including hundreds of civilians, and 67 people on the Israeli side. Egyptian newspaper al-Shorouk reported on an 11-point Egyptian proposal that including the opening of border crossings, coordination with the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority over the rebuilding of Gaza, the extension of the Gaza fishing zone, and a Palestinian commitment to halt tunnel building into Israel.

The European Union offered to take charge of Gaza’s border crossings while insisting on a durable cease-fire, the Associated Press reported yesterday.

The current truce is meant to give Israelis, Palestinians and their Egyptian mediators time to work out a more enduring accord resolving disputes that have fueled three major conflicts since 2008.

Hamas negotiators met with the militant group’s leadership in Qatar yesterday to discuss the Egyptian proposal and an official said the group was leaning toward accepting the offer, Associated Press said.

Truce Holds

Hamas has demanded an end to the blockade on Gaza that Israel imposed after the militant group won Palestinian elections in 2006. Israel has sought assurances that militants won’t resume their rocket attacks and cross-border raids. Senior Hamas official Mussa Abu Marzuk said Aug. 14 that no accord has been signed and that the only agreement reached was to extend the cease-fire, according to the group’s Al-Rai news agency.

Israel withdrew ground troops from Gaza on Aug. 5 following a four-week offensive that it said was designed to end years of rocket fire and destroy tunnels militants built to infiltrate Israel. It estimates armed men account for 750 to 1,000 of the Palestinian dead and accuses Hamas of deliberately putting civilians in harm’s way, in part by operating within built-up areas and in and around schools, hospitals and mosques.

Along with the U.S. and European Union, Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organization.

Israel’s benchmark TA-25 stock index, which has remained largely unaffected by the conflict, rose 0.24 percent in Tel Aviv yesterday. The shekel weakened 0.4 percent against the dollar yesterday.

American Criticism

Criticism from the U.S. State Department of Israeli conduct during the fighting was reported Aug. 14 in the Wall Street Journal.

Israel government spokesman Mark Regev declined to comment on the story, which cited unidentified American officials as saying they were “increasingly disturbed by what they saw as heavy-handed battlefield tactics that they believed risked a humanitarian catastrophe.”

In Washington, Marie Harf, a spokeswoman for the State Department, responded to questions about the newspaper report by saying the U.S. is taking “additional care” in handling arms shipments to Israel because of the Gaza conflict. “We thought Israel could do more to prevent civilian casualties.”

The Obama administration held up a transfer of Hellfire missiles that Israel requested and instituted a new policy that will require White House and State Department approval of all munitions requests Israel makes to the Pentagon, the Journal said.

Bad Relations

Relations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu are already worn by disputes over Iran and peacemaking with the Palestinians.

Finance Minister Yair Lapid called the frayed ties “a worrying trend and we cannot allow it to continue. Our relations with the United States are a strategic asset that must be maintained.”

During the war, the U.S. agreed to provide additional ammunition to Israel in response to a request from its Defense Ministry, according to a Pentagon statement last month that didn’t provide details of the request. Israel asked for a range of munitions, including 120-millimeter mortar shells and 40-mm illumination rounds. Congress also approved $225 million in emergency spending for Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system.

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