Tuesday, August 19, 2014

'Breakthrough' Reported In Cairo Talks, Journalist: 'What Are We Getting From Ceasefire?'

The Israeli and Palestinian teams to Cairo ceasefire talks have signed their initials to a permanent ceasefire agreement, according to an unconfirmed report by Bethlehem-based Ma'an news.Meanwhile, sources close to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo told the Al Quds newspaper Monday night that there has been a breakthrough in the talks that may make it possible to extend the ceasefire even before it expires at midnight tonight.

"The Egyptian mediator played an important role in the breakthrough,” the sources said, “in refusing the new Israeli demands through which Israel reinforced its objection to the Egyptian initiative.”

There has been no confirmation of this report from any other source.

The Al Mayadeen network reported, meanwhile, that the Israeli delegation returned to Israel and that neither side is interested in renewing the fighting, so the ceasefire that began Thursday is expected to hold.
According to the Prime Minister, the turbulent Middle East needs a combination of strength and perseverance.

"The IDF has a lot of power and, the eternal people are not afraid of a long road," he said. "It can take some time and patience, determination and perseverance," he said. "The combination of endurance and strength will help us to achieve the target of this operation - the achievement of peace and security for all citizens of Israel."

Defense Minister Ya'alon added that the self-defense operation in Gaza has not ended.
"Operation Protective Edge has not ended," Ya'alon said. "As we have committed [before], we do not stop until we bring peace and security."
"We are preparing for the results of the discussions in Cairo, to see whether it will bring peace, or whether anyone tries to challenge us in escalation," he added. "The army is ready respond strongly to any development. Hamas will not drag us to a war of attrition, and if it tries [to do so] it will receive it in kind." 

Israel and the US have already coordinated and agreed on the details of a future agreement for a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, and a gradual lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported early Tuesday.

US Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly expected in Israel next week to support the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report indicated, citing diplomatic sources

These diplomatic sources tell Ynet that the agreement between Israel and the US on the terms of a deal with Hamas, was reached secretly and entails Israel opening the land crossings into Gaza, followed by sea access, not objecting to the payment of salaries to Hamas men in Gaza and facilitating the reconstruction of Gaza with international aid.

The US, according to the report, will support Israel’s demand to prevent the rearmament of Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, and will help Israel promote this goal in the international sphere. Israel reportedly conceded the demand that terror groups in Gaza disarm.

During Kerry’s visit, the PM and the secretary of state are expected to emphasize the close, solid relationship between Israel and the US and say that any recent disagreements were on specific issues only.
The US and Israel have been publicly at odds since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, most recently following a Wall Street Journal report that said the US had suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza.

The ceasefire outline would call for the complete removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported, citing Palestinian sources.
According to the outline, Israel will agree to open all of its crossings into the Gaza Strip, and Egypt will open its Rafah crossing. The fishing zone will be expanded, and Israel will release Palestinian prisoners recently arrested in the West Bank.
The discussions on the airport and seaport will be delayed to the second round of negotiations.

Qatari news channel al-Jazeera reported unconfirmed initial details of the long-term agreement :
1. The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings will be opened permanently, with building materials allowed to enter under international supervision.
2. The area allowed for fishing in Gaza waters will be expanded from 6 to 9 miles, and then to 12 miles (as Hamas demanded) within 6 months.
3. Gaza’s electrical crisis will be solved within a year.
4. An agreement was reached in principle to build a seaport in Gaza, a matter to be discussed in a month.
5. The release of Palestinian prisoners will be discussed one month from the signing of the agreement.

However, public statements by Hamas leaders indicated that optimism might be premature, and Israel was braced for a possible resumption of hostilities.

Sources in the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command said Monday afternoon they anticipate Hamas would try to launch a surprise attack and strike a significant blow to Israel — either by way of an infiltration through a cross-border tunnel that has gone undetected by Israel; through small aircraft that can carry explosives; or by firing an anti-tank missile at IDF patrols on the Gaza border.
There has also been speculation that Hamas might allow smaller radical groups to resume rocket fire at Israel, if it does not resume rocket fire itself.
Netanyahu warned earlier Monday that Israel was prepared to respond forcefully if Hamas resumed rocket fire.
“We are preparing for any outcome — the Israeli team was instructed to insist firmly on Israel’s security needs, and the IDF is gearing up for a very forceful response if the fire resumes,” he said.

Report: Palestinian Official Says Israel Gave Up Demand To Demilitarize Gaza

Ashraf al-Ajrami, the former Palestinian Minister of Prisoners Affairs and a close affiliate of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, told Israel's Army Radio Tuesday that Israel has backtracked from its initial demand that Gaza be demilitarized as part of a long term Gaza ceasefire currently being negotiated in Egypt.

"There is a growing understanding among the Israelis that there is little chance of having this demand met," al-Ajrami told Army Radio's Good Morning Israel program. "The Israeli delegation will probably make do with preventing Hamas from rearming," he claimed.

His comments came as Palestinian and Israeli negotiators in Cairo were trying to hammer out a roadmap for the Gaza Strip after Israel announced late Monday night that it had agreed to extend the temporary truce in Gaza for 24 hours while – at Egypt's request – it continued to negotiate a permanent agreement.

Palestinian delegate Qais Abdel-Kareem says discussions resumed on Tuesday morning on key issues, including Israel's blockade of Gaza, its demands for Hamas' disarmament and Palestinian demands for a Gaza port and airport.

Palestinian ambassador to Cairo, Jamal Shoback, says the Israelis have proposed arrangements that are about "not (fully) removing the blockade but easing it."

Ynet reported that sources in Jerusalem said late Monday night that Israel has been working with the US to find a long term solution for Gaza, which included that gradual lifting of the blockage imposed by Egypt and Israel on Gaza. Lifting the blockade is a central Palestinian demand.

Islamic State To U.S.: We'll Drown All Of You In Blood

The Islamic State released a video Monday threatening to attack the United States saying, "We will drown all of you in blood". Meanwhile, as US hits additional Islamic State targets in northern Iraq, Syria's President Bashar Assad has increased attacks on the group's forces in Syria.

The Islamic State militant group that has seized large parts of Iraq and drawn the first American air strikes since the end of the occupation in 2011 has warned the United States it will attack Americans "in any place" if the raids hit its militants.

The video, which shows a photograph of an American who was beheaded during the US occupation of Iraq and victims of snipers, featured a statement which said in English "we will drown all of you in blood".

US airstrikes in northern Iraq have helped Kurdish fighters take back some territory captured by Islamic State militants, who have threatened to march on Baghdad.

The latest advance by the Islamic State, an al Qaeda offshoot, sent tens of thousands of members of the Yazidi ethnic minority and Christians fleeing for their lives and alarmed the Baghdad government and its Western allies.

Unlike al-Qaeda, Islamic State has so far focused on seizing land in Iraq and Syria for its self-proclaimed caliphate, not spectacular attacks on Western targets.

Islamic State under attack

As the US military strikes, Syrian President Bashar Assad's forces have significantly stepped up their own campaign against militant strongholds in Syria, carrying out dozens of airstrikes against the group's headquarters in the past two days.

While the government in Damascus has long turned a blind eye to the Islamic State's expansion in Syria - in some cases even facilitating its offensive against mainstream rebels - the group's rapid march on towns and villages in northern and eastern Syria is now threatening to overturn recent gains by government forces.

"I think they (Syrian government) are finally realizing that their Machiavellian strategy of working with the Islamic State group against the moderates did not work so well, and so they have started to fight it," said Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

But in hitting hard against the Islamic State group, Assad has another motive. His aerial bombardment of militant strongholds in Syria in a way mirrors that of the US military's airstrikes against extremists across the border in Iraq.

Analysts say Assad's strikes aim at sending a message that he is on the same side as the Americans, reinforcing the Syrian government's longstanding claim that it is a partner in the fight against terrorism and a counterbalance to extremists. That comes after the US itself nearly bombed Syria after it blamed Assad's forces for a chemical weapons attack on rebel-held areas near Damascus last August.

"Assad would surely love to regain international acceptance via a 'war on terror' and maybe that is his long-term plan, in so far as he has one," Syria analyst Aron Lund said.

ISIS Booby Traps Mosul Dam, Which Could Unleash 18-Meter-High Wall Of Water On Iraq City

The American backed offensive to recapture Iraq’s biggest dam slowed on Monday, as fighters from the Islamic State rigged part of the area with booby traps and remotely triggered bombs.

Whilst a series of air strikes by American F-18 fighter jets reportedly sent most of the jihadists fleeing from the central parts of Mosul dam, a network of landmines and planted explosives they left behind impeded Kurdish ground forces from recapturing the strategically vital terrain.

“The jihadists have escaped from their positions beside the water pumps – the most important levers for the dam,” said General Kawa Kawani, spokesman for the Kurdish special forces. “But we cannot enter the area because of the explosives.”

Journalist and radio host Sharon Gal had harsh criticism on Monday overa supposed ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas, as reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) based media outlets.
According to the reports, which were not confirmed by Israeli sources, the deal would include the opening of all border crossings in Gaza, the reconstruction of the coastal enclave under the supervision of the PA and increasing the fishing zone from six to nine miles.
As well, according to the PA reports, a discussion of Hamas’s demands for a seaport and airport and the release of terrorists who were freed in the Shalit deal and re-arrested would be postponed for one month from the date of the signing of the agreement.
"If the reports are true (and I hope they are not) - then I am missing just one little thing in the agreement: What we are getting!" Gal wrote on hisFacebook page.
"If it was indeed decided to end the blockade, allow the entry of construction materials into Gaza (under international supervision - which is a joke as we know), increase the fishing range and promise to discuss the seaport next month - then we are being tricked. Prepare for the next

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