Kerry: Israel may continue tunnel demolition during cease-fire

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israel will continue its work to destroy tunnels during the Gaza Strip cease-fire, and Hamas is attending truce talks in Cairo, according to statements from U.S. and Turkish officials.

“Israel will be able to continue its defensive operations for those tunnels that are behind its lines,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said at a briefing for reporters in New Delhi, describing the 72-hour cease-fire, which starts at 8 a.m. Friday local time.

“And the Palestinians will be able to receive food, medicine, and additional humanitarian assistance, as well as to be able to tend to their wounded, bury their dead, be able to in safe areas travel to their homes, and take advantage of the absence – hopefully, hopefully – of violence for these 72 hours,” he said.

In recent days, tensions have risen between the United States and Israel over the terms of a cease-fire in the conflict launched July 8; one principal Israeli objection to some of the proposals advanced by Kerry is that they did not explicitly recognize Israel’s right to continue its work in tracking and destroying tunnels.

Israel formally accepted the cease-fire within hours of its announcement Thursday evening.

The two nations representing Hamas’ interests in the talks, Qatar and Turkey, issued a joint statement through the Turkish foreign ministry welcoming the cease-fire.

In the statement, the countries’ foreign ministers “strongly support the new initiative of the Palestinian Authority to visit Cairo with a delegation comprising all the Palestinian groups to negotiate a sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.”

“All the Palestinian groups” means that Hamas will be part of the delegation.

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