Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal says "diplomatic battle in Cairo is a direct continuation of the military battle in Gaza" as Israeli delegation arrives in Egypt • Turkey, Norway express willingness to operate seaport in Gaza under deal.
Hamas political chief Khaled Mashaal said Monday that despite a 72-hour cease-fire with Israel in Gaza, which went into effect at midnight Sunday, his organization would not agree to a long-term deal unless the blockade of Gaza is lifted.
"The 72-hour cease-fire is necessary for tactical reasons, to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza," Mashaal said in an interview with the Arab media. "Anyone who thinks that they can achieve a long-term cease-fire without lifting the blockade is wrong."
"We can renew our fire at any time and in fact, the diplomatic battle in Cairo is a direct continuation of the military battle," Mashaal added.
Earlier in the negotiations, Hamas demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave -- a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.
In the interview Monday, Mashaal said the fact that there is talk of a port is a victory in and of itself.
"There will be a port in Gaza. True, it won't happen tomorrow or the next day, but the fact that the world is discussing the demand for a port in Gaza represents an achievement for us," he said.
Meanwhile, Israeli negotiators arrived in Cairo Monday for talks on ending the month-old war in Gaza.
The Israeli military said one rocket was launched at the Tel Aviv area, before the cease-fire went into effect and may have landed in the sea. Hamas said it fired the rocket.
The Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks flew home on Friday when the sides failed to reach a deal to prolong a previous three-day truce, which ended when rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza on Friday morning.
A Hamas official said on Sunday that Palestinian factions had accepted Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that these new negotiations would be "the last chance" for a deal.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged "both sides to take advantage of this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting cease-fire agreement."
In a radio interview on Monday, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz said disarming Gaza terrorists was crucial to sustaining a long-term truce and he hoped this could be done by diplomacy rather than force.
"I certainly hope that there will be a diplomatic solution. If there will not be a diplomatic solution, I am convinced that sooner or later we will have to opt for a military solution of taking temporary control of Gaza to demilitarize it again," he told Israel Radio.
The new three-day cease-fire won praise from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who hoped it might lead to a durable cease-fire.
Israeli air strikes and shelling on Sunday killed nine Palestinians in Gaza, medics said, in a third day of renewed fighting since the last truce ended.
One airstrike destroyed the home of Gaza City's mayor, Nezar Hijazi, across the street from the Reuters bureau, where reporters and cameramen took cover when the explosion occurred. There were no casualties in the attack because Israel telephoned warnings to residents in the house and neighboring buildings.
The Israeli military said it targeted 11 terror squads in Gaza, among them gunmen involved in or preparing to fire rockets.
Since the previous cease-fire expired, Palestinian rocket and mortar salvos have focused on Israeli towns and communities near the Gaza border in what seemed a strategy of sapping morale without triggering another ground invasion of Gaza.
Residents of those communities, who had been assured by the military they could return home when last week's truce began, have accused Israeli authorities of misleading them.
The violence of the past three days has been less intense than at the war's outset, with reduced firing on both sides, raising hopes the conflict could be nearing its end.
In the talks that convened in Cairo earlier this month, Egypt has been meeting separately with each party, as neither recognizes the other. Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist and Israel shuns Hamas as a terrorist organization.
Another sticking point in their talks has been Israel's demand for guarantees that Hamas would not use any reconstruction supplies sent to Gaza to build tunnels of the sort Palestinian terrorists have used to infiltrate Israel.
Hamas has demanded an end to the economically stifling blockades on the enclave imposed by both Israel and Egypt, which also sees the Islamist movement as a security threat.
Israel has resisted easing access to Gaza, suspecting Hamas could then restock with weapons from abroad.
Israeli tanks and infantry left the enclave on Tuesday after the army said it had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by terrorists for cross-border attacks.
Turkey, Norway willing to operate seaport in Gaza
Turkey and Norway would be willing to assume responsibility for the operation of a new seaport in Gaza, a Palestinian participating in the Cairo cease-fire talks said on Sunday.
Also on Sunday, Turkey said it planned to send about 3,000 prefabricated homes to help displaced Gazans. Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah said Egypt would prefer to have those homes placed along its border with Gaza in Rafah. Palestinian officials also said that a donor conference may convene in Oslo next month to discuss Gaza rebuilding efforts, Al-Jazeera reported Sunday.
Meanwhile, Sky News reported Saturday that the U.K. was sending a team of National Health Service experts to the Gaza Strip, including neurosurgeons, anesthesiologists, plastic surgeons and trauma doctors.
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