Middle East

Israel and Palestinians begin tense five-day Gaza truce

Palestinian man in rubble of apartment complex, Gaza
Thousands of homes have been destroyed by the fighting in Gaza, according to the United Nations

Israel and the Palestinians have begun a fresh five-day ceasefire in Gaza, agreed at the end of a three-day truce.

As the ceasefire was announced, Israel launched air strikes in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

There were no more reports of violence overnight, and the two sides were expected to continue indirect talks mediated by Egypt in Cairo.

The Israelis launched a military operation in Gaza on 8 July to stop militant attacks from Gaza.

'Forbiddingly difficult'

Hamas, which controls Gaza and is involved in the Cairo talks, has denied its members launched rockets at Israel on Wednesday night.

Israeli military spokesman Peter Lerner said on Twitter: "No need to jump to conclusions. I don't know who launched 10pm (19:00GMT) rocket at Israel."

There was no immediate report of casualties from either side.

An Israeli reserve soldier on a Merkava tank at an unspecified location near the Israeli border with the Gaza Strip, 13 August 2014
The current ceasefire began on Monday, and has now been extended for five days
Palestinian fishermen return to the sea during a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza City, 11 August 2014
The brief truce has enabled Palestinian fishermen to go back out to sea

Palestinian sources say the truce extension will create a window for further negotiations.

But the BBC's Kevin Connolly in Gaza says future talks are likely to be forbiddingly difficult.

Officials from both sides have been communicating their demands through Egyptian intermediaries in Cairo.

The talks are aimed at finding a more durable solution to the conflict in Gaza.

Demands postponed

The Palestinian side wants the blockade on Gaza to be lifted, while Israel wants the territory to be fully disarmed.

Israel has indicated it may agree to relax parts of the blockade, Egyptian and Palestinian sources said.

Other proposals under discussion include reducing the "no-go" zone in Gaza, and increasing the offshore fishing zone for Gaza fishermen.

Egyptian mediators have proposed that discussion of other demands, such as the opening of a seaport in Gaza and the return of the remains of two dead Israeli soldiers, be postponed.

An interception by the Iron Dome anti-missile system is seen as rockets are launched from Gaza towards Israel before a 72-hour ceasefire was due to expire, 13 August 2014
Israel's anti-missile system could be seen intercepting rockets fired from Gaza on Wednesday
Head of the Palestinian delegation Azzam al-Ahmed gives a press conference at a hotel in Cairo, 13 August 2014
The two sides are engaged in indirect negotiations in Cairo

About 2,000 people have died since the fighting in Gaza began on 8 July.

Those killed include more than 1,900 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to the United Nations.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have been killed in the violence and three civilians in Israel have also died.

Tension between Gaza and Israel rose after the abduction and killing of three Israeli teenagers in June.

Israel blamed the killings on Hamas, though the group denied involvement.

Tension rose further after the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem on 2 July. Six Jewish suspects were arrested over the youth's abduction and murder.

Israel occupied Gaza in 1967 and only pulled its troops and settlers out in 2005.

However, it still exercises control over most of Gaza's borders, water and air space.

Egypt controls Gaza's southern border.