Gazan civilians on the roof of a building that had been used for terror activity. (photo from idfblog.com)
As Palestinians begin to discuss the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip after seven weeks of fighting with Israel, Israeli, Palestinian and international officials warn of the risk of another round of fighting unless there is a diplomatic agreement between the two sides as well as an agreement to rebuild Gaza.
Hamas senior official Musa Abu Marzook said that indirect talks with Israel would resume in Cairo later this month. He hinted that Hamas would be prepared to negotiate directly with Israel, saying that there is no obstacle in Muslim religious law to negotiations with Israel.
Israel, for its part, says that Hamas is a terrorist organization, and it will not negotiate either directly with Hamas or with any government that includes Hamas. This could complicate efforts for a new unity government of technocrats from Hamas and Fatah.
European Union Ambassador Lars Faaborg-Andersen warned last week that without a long-term political solution that would see Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in charge of Gaza, violence could start anew. Israel and Hamas agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire on Aug. 26, and were expected to restart negotiations on long-term issues within a month. These expected talks come amid growing tensions between Abbas’ Fatah movement and Hamas, which is far more popular in Gaza now than it was before the war.
The issues on the table for the Cairo talks include an airport or sea port for Gaza, which Israel is expected to oppose, rebuilding Gaza, which is estimated to cost $7.8 billion, and demilitarizing the Strip, which Hamas has opposed. Cairo is also expected to host an international donors conference in October.
In the short term, the Palestinian Authority has appealed for more than $550 million in emergency aid for Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians are still homeless after the fighting.
Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Mohammed Mustafa said, “Reconstruction is the ultimate goal, but our government won’t accept a return to the status quo. We are getting to a limit that can no more be accepted. Never again, never again.”
Israeli officials said they would support the PA having control over a demilitarized Gaza Strip.
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