CAIRO — Palestinian officials voiced cautious optimism Thursday, hinting at progress in Egyptian-mediated negotiations with Israel to bring an end to the fighting in Gaza and secure new arrangements for the war-battered territory.
But with the sides' demands still seemingly irreconcilable, that optimism may be premature and a deal not so close in the making.
Israel and Hamas are observing a five-day cease-fire which began at midnight Wednesday, in an attempt to allow talks between the sides in Cairo to continue. The negotiations are meant to secure a substantive end to the monthlong war and draw up a roadmap for the coastal territory, which has been hard-hit in the fighting.
Israeli officials have largely kept quiet about the negotiations. But militant groups represented in Cairo said progress was being made toward a deal — a stark turnaround from earlier posturing.
"The war is now behind us, and the chances for an agreement on a lasting cease-fire are encouraging," Ziad al-Nakhaleh, deputy leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, told the Associated Press. "Though we didn't get all that we wanted, there was progress here and there."
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev would not comment Thursday on the Cairo talks.
Violence briefly spiked as the extension of a previous, 72-hour truce was announced shortly before midnight on Wednesday. The extension is to last until midnight on Monday.