Palestinian delegates in Cairo set to hold briefing at 9:30 p.m. as Israeli team reportedly returns from cease-fire talks; Hamas leader Haniyeh says no permanent truce unless Gaza “siege lifted.”
Code Red rocket sirens sounded in the Ashkelon Coast Regional Council on Wednesday evening hours before a temporary cease-fire between Israel and Hamas was scheduled to expire at midnight.
At around 9:45, over two hours before the end of the 72 hour ceasefire, rocket sirens sounded in Ashkelon and surrounding areas, including towns and moshavim in the Yoav Regional Council, Lahish Regional Council, Hof Ashkelon Council, and elsewhere. There were no reports yet of damages or injuries.
Meanwhile, Palestinian sources said a press conference expected to be held by the Palestinians delegation in Cairo at 9:30 p.m. had been delayed until further notice while Egyptian negotiations were trying to reach an agreement to extend the temporary cease-fire by 72-hours after its expire at midnight.
Earlier Wednesday, the United States said it wanted a long-term cease-fire secured between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, but will settle for an extension of the current, short-term truce if a larger accord cannot be reached tonight among negotiators in Cairo.
US President Barack Obama spoke to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu by phone on Wednesday to express that message, urging the Israeli premier to seal a deal that would end the violence, after a month-long war led to extensive destruction in the Gaza Strip.
“What we want is a more sustainable, longer-term ceasefire,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf told reporters, “or, absent that, an extension of the current, temporary one.”
A “long-term goal” of the United States remains the disarmament of Hamas, but Harf would not detail whether that demand was still part of the Cairo talks, where the US is represented.
The US is also committed to the reconstruction of the strip, Harf added.
“We’re starting to have conversations with people, but obviously, that would be further down the road,” she said.
According to Channel 2, the Israeli team returned home from the indirect negotiations in the Egyptian capital.
Meanwhile, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh urged the Palestinian negotiating team in Cairo not to “succumb to blackmail” in talks on a cease-fire with Israel.
Haniyeh reiterated that Hamas would only agree to a permanent cease-fire if the “siege” was lifted on the Gaza Strip.
The threat of renewed fighting loomed as it remained uncertain whether Israeli and Palestinian negotiators engaged
in indirect talks in Cairo would forge a long-term truce to take effect following the temporary one.
Israel was bracing for the possibility of resumed rocket attacks in the event that cease-fire negotiations break down, the IDF was mobilizing forces along the border with Gaza, Channel 2 reported.
The military was also reportedly calling up addition reservists to bolsters the soldiers positioned near the Gaza border.
Ben Hartman and Reuters contributed to this report.
by The Jerusalem Post