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Israeli negotiators arrive in Cairo for truce talks

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israeli negotiators arrived in Cairo for talks on a permanent truce with Palestinian factions in Gaza after a 72-hour cease-fire remained in place.

The cease-fire began at midnight Monday, and Israeli negotiators left for Cairo later that morning. Just minutes before the cease-fire went into effect, a powerful long-range missile was fired at Tel Aviv.

The Israeli negotiating team is made up of Amos Gilad, a senior defense official; Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen; Yitzhak Molcho, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s representative; Maj.-Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, the head of the Israeli army’s Planning Directorate; and Yoav Mordechai, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, according to Army Radio.

Israeli negotiators had left Cairo at the end of the previous cease-fire on Friday, when Palestinian factions began firing rockets at southern Israel, saying they would not negotiate under fire.

Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz told Israel Radio Monday that if there is no diplomatic solution to the current conflict, “I am convinced that sooner or later we will have to opt for a military solution of taking temporary control of Gaza to demilitarize it again.”

Hamas officials have told media in Cairo that if an agreement is not reached during this cease-fire, the Palestinian delegation will quit the negotiations for good.

The Palestinians’ main demand is for both Israel and Egypt to lift the blockade on border crossings and to allow a free flow of goods and people into the coastal strip.

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