GAZA/JERUSALEM, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Talks to end a month-long war between Israel and Islamist militants in Gaza have made no progress so far, an Israeli official said on Tuesday, as a 72-hour ceasefire in the shattered Palestinian enclave held for a second day.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were expected to reconvene later in the day in Cairo where Hamas and its allies are seeking an end to an Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"The gaps between the sides are big and there is no progress in the negotiations," said an Israeli official who declined to be named. There was no immediate comment from Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates Gaza.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of the Cairo talks told Reuters, on condition of anonymity: "So far we can't say a breakthrough has been achieved ... Twenty-four hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement."
Hamas also wants the opening of a Mediterranean seaport for impoverished Gaza, a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace agreement with the Palestinians.
Israel has resisted lifting the economically stifling blockade on Gaza and suspects Hamas will restock with weapons from abroad if access to the coastal territory is eased. Neighboring Egypt also sees Hamas as a security threat.
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza last week after it said the army had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border attacks. It now wants guarantees Hamas will not use any reconstruction supplies sent into the enclave to rebuild those tunnels.
The Palestinian official said the Palestinian delegation had consented that reconstruction in Gaza should be carried out by the unity government of technocrats set up in June by Hamas and the more secular Fatah party of Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank.
Israeli representatives are not meeting face-to-face with the Palestinian delegation because it includes Hamas, which Israel regards as a terrorist organization. Hamas for its part is sworn to Israel's destruction.
WAR CRIMES INVESTIGATION
Gaza hospital officials have said 1,938 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the July 8 launch of Israel's military campaign to quell rocket and mortar fire from the enclave into its towns.
Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians, one of them a Thai farm worker, while the heavy losses among civilians and the destruction of thousands of homes in Gaza, where 1.8 million Palestinians are squeezed into a narrow urbanized enclave, have drawn international condemnation.
According to the United Nations, at least 425,000 displaced people in the Gaza Strip are in emergency shelters or staying with host families. Nearly 12,000 homes have been destroyed or severely damaged by Israeli air strikes and heavy shelling.
Israel aims to build a network of sensors to try to detect any further tunnel building but it could take months to prove the scheme works and in the meantime re-invasions are possible to destroy tunnels, a senior army officer said.
In Geneva, the United Nations named an international commission of inquiry into possible human rights violations and war crimes by both sides during the conflict.
The commission, which will be headed by William Schabas, a Canadian professor of international law, was hailed by Hamas and condemned by Israel.
"Hamas welcomes the decision to form an investigation committee into the war crimes committed by the occupation (Israel) against Gaza and it urges that it begin work as soon as possible," spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said.
Israel's foreign ministry said the Human Rights Council was biased against Israel. "The Human Rights Council long ago turned into the 'terrorist rights council' and a kangaroo court, whose 'investigations' are pre-determined," Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said in a statement.
"If any more proof were needed, the appointment of the chairman of the panel, whose anti-Israel bias and opinions are known to all, proves beyond any doubt that Israel cannot expect justice from this body, whose report has already been written and all that is left is to decide who will sign off on it."
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
08/08/2014 2:47 PM EDT
White House Concerned By Renewed Fighting
The White House on Friday urged Israel and the Palestinians to resume talks and do what they can to protect civilians after Egyptian-mediated negotiations failed to extend a ceasefire and rocket fire resumed.
"The United States is very concerned about today's developments in Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters.
"We condemn the renewed rocket fire and we are concerned about the safety and security of civilians on both sides of that conflict," he said.
08/08/2014 1:42 PM EDT
Official: 5 Palestinians Killed In Gaza
Five Palestinians, including a 10-year-old boy, have been killed in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza since a ceasefire fell apart on Friday, a Palestinian medical official reported to Agence France Presse.
Meanwhile, the Israeli army said Palestinian militants fired 35 rockets into Israel on Friday, injuring a soldier and a civilian.
The father of a ten-year old Palestinian boy, who was killed in an Israeli air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in northern Gaza City, mourns at the city's Al-Shifa hospital, on August 8, 2014. (MOHAMMED ABED/AFP/Getty Images)
08/08/2014 9:23 AM EDT
Palestinian Delegation Says Gaza Talks Will Continue
Palestinian factions will remain in Cairo and press on with Egyptian-mediated talks despite the end of the ceasefire in Gaza, the head of the delegation, Fatah official Azzam Ahmed, said on Friday.
"We are not for escalation. We are ready to continue through our Egyptian brothers in negotiating to reach a final agreement that would return the rights to their owners," Ahmed said. "I mean here lifting the blockade of Gaza."
Ahmed said Palestinian negotiators were due to meet Egyptian intelligence officials, who have been mediating the talks, later in the day. He said Palestinian factions were united in their decision not to extend the 72-hour truce that ended at 0500 GMT and had been clear about their basic demands to end the conflict.
08/08/2014 9:13 AM EDT
Egypt: Agreement Close In Gaza Talks
Egypt called on Friday for an immediate resumption of the ceasefire in Gaza and a return to the negotiating table, saying that only a few outstanding issues remained in negotiations it was mediating between Israel and the Palestinians.
"The foreign ministry calls on all sides to rise to their responsibilities ... and to return immediately to the ceasefire commitment and exploit the opportunity available to resume negotiations on the very limited sticking points that remain in the fastest possible time," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
08/08/2014 3:58 AM EDT
Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza Resume
BREAKING: Israel says it's resumed strikes on Gaza in response to rocket fire, after end of 3-day truce.— The Associated Press (@AP) August 8, 2014
08/08/2014 3:02 AM EDT
Cease-Fire Ends With New Rocket Attacks
A 72-hour cease-fire expired at 8 a.m. today, and not long after, Gaza militants began firing rockets at Israel, The Associated Press reported.
The Israeli military said at least 10 rockets had been fired at Israel since the truce ended. Prior to the attacks, a senior official for Hamas said the militant groups would not extend the cease-fire.
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08/06/2014 2:46 PM EDT
Official: Israel Agrees To Extend Ceasefire
Israel has conditionally agreed to extend a ceasefire that ended a month of fighting in Gaza beyond a Friday deadline, an Israeli official said on Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The official did not say for how much longer Israel had agreed to extend the truce, only that: "Israel has expressed its readiness to extend the truce under its current terms," referring to the deal brokered by Egypt that took effect on Tuesday.
Hamas had no immediate comment.
08/06/2014 2:12 PM EDT
IDF: Rocket Sirens Were False Alarm
IDF confirms rocket sirens in southern Israel were false alarm http://t.co/QN677jtlXE— Haaretz.com (@haaretzcom) August 6, 2014
08/06/2014 1:18 PM EDT
Report: Rocket Sirens Sound At Gaza Border
ABC Foreign Editor Jon Williams reports that the IDF have confirmed the rocket sirens are sounding, but are checking to see if it is a false alarm.
08/05/2014 4:20 PM EDT
Israel Arrests Kidnapping Suspect
Reuters reports that Israel has arrested one of the suspects in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June.
Hussam Kawasme, a 40-year-old resident of the West Bank city of Hebron, was arrested on July 11 in connection with the killing of Israelis Gil-Ad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrah, who went missing on June 12 and were discovered dead a couple of weeks later.
Their kidnapping sparked a cycle of violence that led to the month-long conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
Kawasme's arrest was made public for the first time on Tuesday in a document from an Israeli court case over whether houses belonging to him and two other suspects - who remain at large - should be destroyed as a punitive measure.
The lawyers listed as representing Kawasme were not reachable for comment.
The court document said Kawasme had admitted to helping to organize the kidnapping - securing funding from the Hamas Islamist group in Gaza and purchasing weapons which he passed on to the two other suspects who carried out the attack.
Kawasme also helped to bury the bodies of the teenagers in a plot of land he had bought a few months earlier, it said.
Israel has named the other two suspects in the case as Marwan Kawasme and Amar Abu Aysha.