A Gaza truce was holding on Wednesday as Egyptian mediators pursued talks with Israeli and Palestinian representatives on an enduring end to a war that has devastated the enclave.
Egypt's intelligence chief met a Palestinian delegation in Cairo, the state news agency MENA said, a day after he conferred with Israeli representatives. The Palestinian team, led by an official from Western-backed President Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah party, includes envoys from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group, Reuters reported.
"The indirect talks between the Palestinians and Israelis are moving forward," one Egyptian official said, making clear that the opposing sides were not meeting face to face. "It is still too early to talk about outcomes but we are optimistic."
Egyptian and Palestinian sources said they expected later on Wednesday an initial response by Israel to Palestinian demands, which it has so far shown no sign of accepting.
Israel withdrew ground forces from the Gaza Strip on Tuesday morning and started a 72-hour Egyptian-brokered ceasefire with Hamas as a first step towards a long-term deal.
In Gaza, where some half-million people have been displaced by a month of bloodshed, some residents left UN shelters to trek back to neighborhoods where whole blocks have been destroyed by Israeli shelling and the smell of decomposing bodies fills the air.
Palestinians want an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on impoverished Gaza and the release of prisoners, including those Israel arrested in a June crackdown in the occupied West Bank after three Jewish seminary students were kidnapped and killed.
Israel has resisted those demands.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, in an interview on the BBC's HARDtalk program, also spoke of a need for Hamas to decommission its rocket arsenal.
Hamas, which has controlled the Gaza Strip since 2007, has ruled out giving up its weapons.
Hamas's Deputy Chief Ismail Haniyeh said on Tuesday that what the Palestinians did not lose in the battlefield would not be lost at the negotiation table, Arabs 48 news website reported.
Haniyeh issued a statement titled, "The military victory of resistance and legendary patience of the people will definitely lead to lifting the siege of Gaza," in which he said that the negotiating team in Cairo is sticking to the Palestinian demands and would not bargain away any of them.
Haniyeh said, "The champion fighters defeated the occupier, obliging it to retreat and opening the door for our people to achieve their hopes of freedom, return and independence." He stressed that Gaza and other places in Palestine are all following the talks in Cairo.
"We deal with the political movements with high responsibility," said Haniyeh, adding that, "we have been in touch with Qatar and Turkey, and now with Egypt, in order to stop the aggression and lift the oppressive siege."
He affirmed that the Palestinians are "united" behind the negotiators in Cairo. "We support our united negotiation team in Cairo in order to achieve the best conclusion that matches the massive sacrifices of our people and our resistance," he said.
The Hamas leader, who conceded his position as a prime minister for a reconciliation government just one month before the war, said that Hamas's delegation, which is part of the negotiation team in Cairo, is reconciliatory and eager to get a united Palestinian resolution on the whole situation.
But he insisted that the blood spilt in the Israeli massacres in Shujayia, Khusa'a, Rafah and Beit Hanoun, as well as the blood of all the families that were executed, is still a behest that is calling upon us "to keep our promises (to achieve the Palestinian demands)."
Although the talks are still in the early stages, the outlines of a possible solution have emerged, including internationally funded reconstruction of Gaza overseen by a Palestinian unity government.
In a step toward reconstruction, Norway is organizing a donor conference, tentatively set for the beginning of September, according to AP.
Regarding easing the blockade, a statement by Egyptian intelligence indicated it would not agree to major changes at the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and the onus of lifting the border closure would fall on Israel.
The cease-fire is the longest lull in a war that has killed nearly 1,900 Palestinians — 75 percent of them civilians according to the United Nations. Israel has lost 67 people, including three civilians.
Only 36% of Israelis believe Israel won
Meanwhile, the latest Israeli public opinion poll shows that only 36% of Israelis believe that Israel won the war in Gaza.
According to the poll, which was conducted by al-Hewar Center in favor of the Haaretz hebrew newspaper on Tuesday only 26% of the Israelis believe that the objectives of the war declared by Benjamin Netanyahu and his Minister of the army Moshe Yaalon, mainly the destruction of tunnels and deterring and hitting Hamas, have been fully achieved.
Fidel Castro accuses Israel of practicing genocide
Iconic Cuban leader Fidel Castro accused Israel of practicing "a new, repugnant form of fascism" in its brutal war against the Gaza Strip, constituting a "macabre genocide".
In an article entitled "Palestinian Holocaust in Gaza" in the Cuban newspaper Granma, Castro also said that the United States is complicit in Israel's crimes.
Castro wrote, "I think that a new, repugnant form of fascism is emerging with notable strength, at this time in human history when more that seven billion inhabitants are struggling for their survival."
Castro cited the list of atrocities that Israel has committed in Gaza: the "murder" of about 2,000 Palestinians, the wounding of almost 9,000 and the displacement of tens of thousands.
"The Nazi genocide of Jews outraged all the earth's peoples," he wrote. "Why does [the Israeli] government believe that the world will be insensitive to the macabre genocide which today is being perpetuated against the Palestinian people? Perhaps it is expected that the complicity of the US empire in this shameful massacre will be ignored? "
Castro went on to denounce the history of European and American imperialism, warning that today "New, indispensable forces have emerged" to counteract these oppressive empires, especially noting Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
Gaza losses $300m due to destruction of factories
An estimated 134 factories were bombed and destroyed by Israel during its ongoing assault on Gaza, the Palestinian Federation of Industries said Tuesday.
According to a statement issued by the Federation, a copy of which was obtained by the Anadolu news agency, along with the factories which have been destroyed, more than 30,000 workers in the Gaza Strip lost their jobs because of the military operation, bringing the unemployment rate to more than 55 per cent.
Losses caused by the halt in work in these factories are estimated to have reached $47 million during the four weeks of aggression. The group said the figure is likely to rise as technical teams continue to discover and document damages.
Mufeed Al-Hasayna, minister of Public Works and Housing in the national unity government, said, "the losses are estimated at $300 million, and the residual value is about $600 million in indirect economic losses resulting from high rates of unemployment, poverty and the destruction of infrastructure."
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