Cease-fire negotiations delayed due to capture of Israeli soldier
Smoke from flares rises in the sky in Gaza City, in the northern Gaza Strip - AP

CAIRO: Egypt delayed ceasefire negotiations after Israel revealed that one of its soldiers has been captured, Secretary General of Islamic Jihad Movement, Ziad al-Nakhala told AFP Friday.

Hamas and Israel have started an unconditional 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza with the mediation of Egypt, the United Nations and the United States. The truce came into effect at 08:00 on Friday, but the truce quickly unraveled as 70 Palestinians were killed and 400 were injured Friday after the Israeli army broke the truce that had just started the same morning.

Israeli IDF spokesman claimed that an Israeli officer, 23- year-old lieutenant “Hadar Goldin” was captured and two soldiers were killed by Hamas after the start of the humanitarian ceasefire. However, Hamas leader Moussa Abu Marzouk blamed Israel for violating the truce, saying the Israeli military “never stands by its commitments,” and that they had captured the soldier before the ceasefire went into effect.

Bassam al-Salhi, Secretary General of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) told Anadolu Agency Friday that the Palestinian delegation will postpone their visit to Cairo till Saturday due to the Israeli escalation in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas immediately formed a Palestinian delegation that will head Saturday to Cairo regardless of the latest developments, to discuss the ceasefire proposal, Maan News Agency reported Friday.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi who currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, was scheduled to begin an official visit to Egypt on Saturday to voice support for the Egyptian ceasefire proposal to end the conflict in the Gaza Strip, Youm7 reported Friday.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was scheduled to receive Renzi during his brief visit at the presidential palace in Heliopolis in Cairo, diplomatic Italian sources said.

Renzi was expected to meet with Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry to discuss current regional issues, especially the situation in Libya and Gaza and prospects of bolstering bilateral ties, the presidency said in a Thursday statement.

This visit comes following Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini’s two-day visit to Cairo on July 19 and her meeting with Sisi on the situation in the Gaza Strip in light of the Israeli aggression in the enclave and means to protect the Palestinians as well as on the latest developments in Libya.

“Egypt is a strategic partner to Italy,” Mogherini said during his meeting with Sisi, saying that Italy is preparing to revive the deep friendship between the two countries, Youm7 reported Friday.

In related news, Salhi announced in a Friday statement that a unified Palestinian delegation was formed under a decision by President Mahmoud Abbas and will arrive in Cairo Friday noon to start indirect negotiations with the Israeli side with Egypt’s mediation, Youm7 reported Friday.

“The delegation comprises 12 people representing all Palestinian factions including Fatah and Hamas movements,” stressed Salhi who added that there is no official initiative submitted to Palestine’s side except the Egyptian one as well as Turkish and Qatari suggestions and all of them are calling to stop the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip.

The West Bank delegation includes Fatah leader Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian General Intelligence Service Major General Maged Farag, Qais Abdul-Karim, head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Secretary General of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP) Bassam al-Salhi and also Hamas leaders Moussa Abu Marzouk,  Khalil al Haya and  Emad al Almy.

Egypt called on the Palestinian authority and the Israeli government to send their delegations to Cairo to negotiate issues of common interest within the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, an anonymous diplomatic source told Youm7 Friday.

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