Israel, Hamas Set Out Demands on Gaza

A 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza continued to hold Wednesday as talks are expected to begin in Cairo to negotiate a lasting peace between Israel and Islamist group Hamas. For a second day, Gazans ventured into the streets in search of food, household goods and medical supplies, taking advantage of the pause in Israeli shelling and airstrikes. Others returned from shelters to begin rebuilding their shattered homes, some of which have been littered with bullets and leftovers from the monthlong conflict. The cease-fire began at 8 a.m. local time on Tuesday.

 Security arrangements and access to the Gaza strip are expected to be  issues at the core of talks between Israel and Hamas. Both parties have  already made clear demands before the negotiations, which will be mediated  by Egyptian and U.S. diplomats. Israel aims to ensure Hamas cannot  rebuild its rocket arsenal and military capabilities, while Hamas wants the  Israeli blockade of goods and people into Gaza lifted.

 At the center of these deliberations, according to U.S., Israeli and Arab  diplomats, is a push to place the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas and Egypt at the heart of efforts to disarm Hamas and open Gaza to economic development.

These diplomats said the Palestinian Authority might be given the task of manning Gaza's border crossings with both Egypt and Israel, which will be needed to smooth the flow of humanitarian aid.

Ending a seven-year Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza is one of Hamas's central demands for any deal. But it is not clear whether Hamas would resist the push to give Mr. Abbas a larger role in Gaza.

For Israel, the military operation that pushed into the seaside enclave brought some tangible gains. After its initial shock at the extent of Hamas's network of tunnels into southern Israel, the military said it destroyed more than 30 of them and averted infiltrations by Palestinian fighters. It said its Iron Dome air defense system prevented all but 3% of Palestinian rocket fire from getting through.

Separately, Israel said in a court document released Tuesday that it arrested last month a Hamas member, Hussam Qawasmeh, who Israeli security authorities allege served as the "command echelon" in the June 12 kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenshitchhiking in the West Bank. The kidnapping of the teens set off an escalation in tensions with Hamas that led to the Israeli military's 3 1/2 week offensive in Gaza. Details of the investigation are under a court gag order.

(all credits to online.wsj.com)