Israel strikes Gaza as talks with Palestinians due to resumeNew Age Online
Israeli jets struck rocket launch sites in the Gaza Strip early on Wednesday, hours before peace talks with Palestinians were due to resume in Jerusalem, the Israeli army said, reports The Hindu.
The airstrike followed a rocket launch from Gaza that hit an open area near the Israeli border city of Sderot late Tuesday, with no reports of casualties or damage.
The U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were due to take place in Jerusalem later Wednesday.
On Tuesday, Israel released 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners as part of the deal to reopen negotiations.
AFP adds: Israel and the Palestinians are set to resume peace talks in Jerusalem on Wednesday, and have set themselves a nine-month goal of trying to reach a long elusive peace deal.
Here's what we know -- and what we don't -- about the latest US-led effort to bring peace to the Middle East, with the aim of creating a two-state solution with Israelis and Palestinians living peacefully side-by-side.
Israelis: Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, legal adviser Yitzhak Molcho
Palestinians: Chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, Fatah central committee member Mohammad Shtayyeh
United States: Former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, dubbed "the facilitator" who could be backed at key moments by either US Secretary of State John Kerry or even President Barack Obama
After initial discussions about the talks themselves in Washington at the end of July, negotiations begin on Wednesday, just hours after Israel freed 26 long-term Palestinian prisoners.
After that the tempo is expected to pick up.
Both sides have agreed to try to reach an agreement within nine months, no matter what "provocations" there are.
Further talks could be held either in the region or in Washington.
All the so-called "final status" issues -- the right of return for some five million Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the borders of a future Palestinian state, the fate of Jerusalem, the existence of Jewish settlements -- are on the table.
Israel has dashed any hopes for a halt to settlement building during the talks, which was a key Palestinian demand. Indeed, the government approved construction of more than 2,100 new settlement units in the days leading up to the talks, with a minister pledging to build thousands more in the coming year.
The US position that a future Palestinian state should be based on the 1967 borders with mutual land swaps has not changed. But it is uncertain that this is the basis for the new negotiations.
Israel has agreed to a key Palestinian demand to release 104 long-term Palestinian prisoners and completed the release of the first 26 before the Jerusalem meeting. The dates for releasing the remaining prisoners will be decided by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
All sides have agreed to keep the details of the discussions top secret to give the negotiations the best chance to work.
Washington has been working with the Middle East Quartet on a plan to attract some $4 billion (3.0 billion euros) in private investment to boost the Palestinian economy, which the State Department says it will roll out in the coming weeks.
In July, Kerry said Israel would be taking steps "to improve conditions in the West Bank and in Gaza". That could mean lifting some road blocks and bureaucratic hurdles to help the economy, but as yet there have been no notable moves in this direction.
Both Israel and the Palestinians have said any deal would be put to a public referendum.
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