Israel and Palestinian leaders have agreed to extend a Gaza truce by another 24 hours, minutes before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire was set to expire, officials on both sides have said.
Monday’s agreement was reached as gaps on key issues continued to dog efforts to achieve a long-term deal between Israel and the armed groups in the Gaza Strip, dominated by Hamas, which would allow reconstruction aid to flow in after five weeks of fighting.
The month-long war ended more than a week ago when Egypt secured a three-day truce, extended by another five days that expired on 21:00 GMT on Monday.
A Palestinian official close to the talks in Cairo said the latest extension would give both sides time “to complete the negotiations”.
An Israeli official and a security source said in Jerusalem that “on Egypt’s request the ceasefire shall be extended by 24 hours to allow further negotiations”.
In Gaza a senior Palestinian official said agreement had been reached on all but two points drafted by Egypt for a wider deal, including opening Gaza’s crossing to allow a freer flow of goods, and extending maritime limits in the Mediterranean Sea.
Issues still not agreed upon include Hamas’s demands to open a seaport and an airport, which Israel has said it would only discuss at a later stage, in addition to freeing Palestinian prisoners held by Israel and Hamas handing over remains of two Israeli soldiers killed in the war, a Palestinian official said.
Reporting from Gaza, Al Jazeera’s Hoda Abdel-Hamid said Palestinians would have to wait longer to find out what happens at the expiry of the latest truce.
“Gazans were hoping the atmosphere of uncertainy they’ve been living in would have been over with a couple of hours ago, but they’ll have to wait til Wednesday night to know what’s going to happen next,” she said.
Israel made clear before the earlier truce lapsed it would continue to hold its fire as long as Palestinians did the same.
“If they shoot at us, we will respond,” Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s security cabinet, told Israel Radio.
The Palestinian Health Ministry put the Gaza death toll at 2,016 and said most were civilians in the small, densely populated coastal territory. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and three civilians in Israel have been killed.
Hamas seeks the construction of a Gaza sea port and the reopening of an airport destroyed in previous conflicts, as part of any enduring halt to violence. Livni said such issues should be dealt with at a later stage.
Israel, which launched its offensive on July 8, has shown scant interest in making sweeping concessions, and has called for the disarming of armed groups in the enclave of 1.8 million people.
Hamas has said that laying down its weapons is not an option.