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Israel, Palestinians mull new 3-day truce

Palestinians work to put out a fire in an apartment that witnesses said was hit by an Israeli airstrike in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip August 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Palestinian negotiators at truce talks Sunday in Cairo were examining an Egyptian proposal for a new three-day cease-fire as Israeli warplanes kept up pressure on Gaza, killing two teenagers.

Two days after a truce deal collapsed in a firestorm of violence, the Palestinians confirmed they were weighing the new proposal for a temporary halt to the fighting.

"There is a proposal for another 72-hour truce (to allow) for the continuation of negotiations. This proposal is being studied," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP.

A Palestinian official in Cairo said the delegation would only announce its position "after knowing the Israel stance."

Israeli negotiators were also locked in talks over the latest "developments," an official told AFP, without ruling out the possibility the team could return to Cairo after bolting the talks on Friday when Hamas refused to extend an earlier ceasefire.

"If they do, it will be this evening or tomorrow."

Egypt, for its part, insisted on a lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza.

"This siege should be lifted in accordance to Israel's responsibilities as an occupation force," the Foreign Ministry in Cairo said in a statement.

Four weeks of bloody fighting have killed more than 1,917 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

The U.N. says around three-quarters of those killed in Gaza were civilians, around a third of them children.

On the ground, Gazans endured yet another day of fear Sunday as the air force hit 35 targets, killing two 17-year-old youths in central Gaza and the northern town of Beit Hanun.

Militants launched 21 rockets over the border, 16 of which struck southern Israel and three which were shot down, with the rest falling short inside Palestinian territory, the army said.

In Deir al-Balah, an angry crowd of young men bellowed slogans as they carried the bloodied body of a teenager to its burial side.

The army described the youth as a "prominent terror operative."

"God loves martyrs! We will march on Jerusalem in our millions," chanted mourners.

At the graveside, neighbors passed around pieces of shrapnel as he was laid to rest in a plot where several other freshly-dug graves laid open, as if prepared for further deaths.

Since a 72-hour truce ended Friday, Gaza has been plunged back into an abyss of violence, with the Israeli military hitting more than 160 targets and killing 16 people, and Palestinian militants launching 110 rockets of which 85 smashed into Israel.

So far, Egyptian efforts to broker an end to more than a month of fighting have led nowhere.

" Israel will not engage in negotiations under fire," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Cabinet Sunday, warning that Operation Protective Edge would continue until Israel ensured prolonged quiet for its citizens.

Meanwhile, Israel said it had closed its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into the southern Gaza Strip after it was struck twice by rocket fire, once shortly after dawn, and again at around noon.

"After continuous and intentional rocket fire at the Kerem Shalom crossing this morning and this afternoon, during which trucks carrying flammable materials to the Gaza Strip were almost hit, we took the exceptional decision to close the crossing in order to protect the lives of workers and traders," a Defense Ministry statement said.

In the West Bank, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli troops as he played outside his home in Al-Fawwar refugee camp near the southern city of Hebron, relatives and medics said.

The army said troops had opened fire during a "violent riot" but said it had opened an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.

Israel's Gaza operation has triggered a series of almost daily protests across the West Bank, during which 16 Palestinians have been killed, the Ramallah-based health ministry said.

In Cairo, Mussa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of Hamas's exiled leadership, said Sunday would be crucial for deciding "the fate of the negotiations."

And in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu would be "fully responsible" if he allowed the Cairo talks to collapse.

"Our people will not give in to Israeli stupidity," he said.

Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from hard-liners to send troops back in to Gaza to topple Hamas, the de facto power in the battered Palestinian enclave.

"There is no doubt that the only thing left to do now is to overpower Hamas, clean out the territory and get out as quickly as possible," Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.

 

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Summary

Palestinian negotiators at truce talks Sunday in Cairo were examining an Egyptian proposal for a new three-day cease-fire as Israeli warplanes kept up pressure on Gaza, killing two teenagers.

Egypt, for its part, insisted on a lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza.

Since a 72-hour truce ended Friday, Gaza has been plunged back into an abyss of violence, with the Israeli military hitting more than 160 targets and killing 16 people, and Palestinian militants launching 110 rockets of which 85 smashed into Israel.

Israel said it had closed its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into the southern Gaza Strip after it was struck twice by rocket fire, once shortly after dawn, and again at around noon.

Israel's Gaza operation has triggered a series of almost daily protests across the West Bank, during which 16 Palestinians have been killed, the Ramallah-based health ministry said.

In Gaza, Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu would be "fully responsible" if he allowed the Cairo talks to collapse.


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