An Egyptian effort to broker an end to a month-long war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip appears to have collapsed after Israel walked out on the talks in response to a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire.
The Israeli walkout occurred just hours before a midnight deadline, leaving the fate of the negotiations in question and raising the possibility of a resumption of heavy fighting.
“The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. “When Hamas breaks the ceasefire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today’s rocket fire.”
He would not say whether the team would return to Cairo, or whether Israel would resume ceasefire talks. There was no immediate Egyptian comment, but a Hamas official declared the talks over.
The breakdown dealt a harsh blow to nearly a week of Egyptian-led diplomacy meant to end weeks of fighting that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian and UN officials.
Sixty-seven Israelis, including three Israelis, have also been killed. It has been the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Hamas is seeking an end to a seven-year Israeli-Egypt blockade that has ravaged Gaza’s economy, while Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will disarm.
In nearly a week of indirect talks, Egypt appears to have made little headway in resolving the differences.