Egypt says Gaza truce talks invite 'still in place'
CAIRO, Egypt – Egypt said Friday, August 1, its invitation to Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks on a longer-term Gaza ceasefire was "still in place" despite a proposed 72-hour humanitarian truce breaking down.
However, it condemned Israel for "keeping on targeting innocent Palestinian civilians in the Gaza strip", referring to the intensive Israeli shelling on the southern city of Rafah that killed at least 62 people according to medical sources.
A proposed three-day truce that began at 0500 GMT collapsed amid a deadly new wave of bloodshed and the apparent capture of an Israeli soldier by Hamas. (READ: Gaza truce collapses in new wave of violence)
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said a joint Palestinian delegation, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, will travel to Cairo on Saturday, August 2, for ceasefire talks despite the renewed fighting.
The foreign ministry said Cairo was following "with great interest and concern" the latest developments in the Gaza Strip.
It urged all parties to "fully abide by the conditions of the humanitarian truce" which had been announced overnight by US Secretary of State John Kerry. (READ: In Gaza, whatever the target, children often the victims)
Earlier on Friday, Egypt invited the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to come to Cairo for longer-term truce talks, with the two teams expected to arrive later in the day.
Islamic Jihad's deputy leader Ziad al-Nakhale told Agence France-Presse that the Egyptian authorities "postponed" the dialogue after Israel revealed one of its soldiers may have been captured.
But the foreign ministry in Cairo insisted in a new statement later on Friday that its invitation to talks was "still in place".
"Egypt assures that the invitation it sent to the Palestinian Authority and the Israeli government to send their two delegations to Cairo to study all issues of concern... within the framework of the Egyptian initiative is still in place," a ministry statement said.
The ministry later called on Israel to "stop, immediately and completely, targeting civilians and using excessive and unjustified force" which it said "only complicates matters ... and does not pave the way for a resumption of the negotiations."
Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri held telephone talks on Friday with Kerry, Abbas and several other Arab leaders to discuss the situation in Gaza, the ministry said.
The 72-hour truce, announced in a joint US-UN declaration, had come as a compromise after Hamas rejected an Egyptian initiative earlier last month for a durable truce followed by talks.
Hamas had demanded guarantees that Israel would end its eight-year blockade of Gaza. (READ: Pope calls for ceasefire in Gaza conflict)
The conflict in Gaza between Israel and Hamas has killed at least 1,500 on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 63 Israeli soldiers and three civilians on the other. (READ: 'Saddest' photo: Astronaut captures Gaza warzone from space) – Rappler.com