Israeli soldiers are seen in a staging area near the border with northern Iraq, as talks in Cairo on ending the war continued. Amir Cohen/Reuters
Egypt said Monday that Israel-Gaza ceasefire talks will be extended 24 hours to continue negotiations.
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The announcement came late Monday, less than an hour before a temporary truce was set to expire in the Gaza war.
In a statement, Egypt confirmed a deal had not been reached but that talks on a long-term arrangement in the Palestinian territory would continue.
"Palestinians and Israelis agreed on extending ceasefire to 24 hours to continue current negotiations," Egypt's official news agency said, quoting an official statement.
Ziad Nakhleh, head of the Islamic Jihad faction within the Palestinian delegation in Cairo, earlier Monday hinted the deadline would be extended.
"The war is behind us now," he told the AP. "We are not returning to war."
Meanwhile, the top UN official for the Mideast says Gaza will require massive reconstruction and is proposing expanding a UN-Israeli system to import construction materials into the Palestinian territory.
Robert Serry told the UN Security Council that ending the blockade of Gaza and addressing Israel's legitimate security needs have become even more urgent given "the unprecedented amount of destruction ... and the corresponding unprecedented level of humanitarian needs" suffered during the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas.
He said there are indications that "the volume of reconstruction will be about three times" what it was after the 2009 Hamas-Israel conflict.
Serry said approximately 16,800 housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged, affecting some 100,000 Palestinians. In addition, he said an estimated 108 installations belonging to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees were damaged along with the Gaza branch of his own office.
Serry said ways must be found to get large quantities of building materials, including cement, into Gaza "in a way that fulfills Israel's security concerns."
During the latest conflict, Israel discovered and destroyed dozens of cross-border tunnels. Israel has said it is willing, in principle, to ease Gaza border restrictions — but only with safeguards that prevent weapons or goods with possible military uses, such as cement for building tunnels and bunkers, from reaching Hamas.
Donor conference planned
Hamas agreed to a power-sharing agreement in April with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah faction controls the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority now controls a unity government of technocrats in both the West Bank and Gaza but Hamas's military wing still controls security in Gaza.
Serry said the UN-Israeli system to import construction materials has been used "for years."
"This system has demonstrably worked, prevented diversion of materials, allowed successful implementation of crucial projects, and built trust," he said. "Reconstruction of the magnitude which is now needed can only be addressed with the involvement at scale of the Palestinian Authority and the private sector in Gaza, meaning larger quantities of materials are required to enter Gaza."
He said the United Nations is ready to explore how it can be expanded to monitor a Palestinian Authority-led private-sector reconstruction program in Gaza.
Norway and Egypt announced plans on Monday to co-host a donor conference once a durable cease-fire is in place and once adequate access conditions have been established, he said.
"Donors will want to be assured that they can bring construction materials inside Gaza," Serry said. "Right now, Gaza urgently needs houses, hospitals, and schools — not rockets, tunnels, and conflict," Serry said.
Also on Monday, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two militants suspected in the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers whose deaths sparked the war in Gaza, and sealed up the home of a third.
The demolition is standard Israeli military procedure in dealing with militants suspected of major crimes. According to the police, there were 250 policemen at the scene, along with dozens of Israeli soldiers. Minor clashes were reported during the demolition, with Palestinian youths hurling rocks and stones at armoured Israeli vehicles.
The three teens — Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaar and Naftali Frenkel — were slain in June in the West Bank. Their killings were followed by the slaying of a Palestinian youth in what was a likely revenge attack.
The teens' deaths also led to wide-ranging Israeli raids in the West Bank and precipitated the Gaza war, which began on July 8 with an Israeli air campaign. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas' underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.
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