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Egypt in new truce plan with no let-up in Gaza war

A Palestinian man is comforted as he mourns the death of his relative, who medics said was killed by an Israeli airstrike, at a hospital morgue in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip August 25, 2014. (REUTERS/Mohammed Salem)

GAZA CITY, Palestine: Violence reverberated across Gaza Monday with at least eight Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes as Egypt proposed a new cease-fire that would open key crossings into the blockaded territory.

Since an earlier truce collapsed on August 19, the death toll in Gaza has risen steadily with 109 Palestinians killed in more than 350 Israeli airstrikes across the territory.

Over the same period, more than 650 rockets have struck Israeli territory, one of which killed a 4-year-old boy over the weekend, army figures show. Around 110 rockets were shot down.

Since midnight Sunday, 30 Israeli strikes have killed eight Palestinians, including a woman, a 78-year-old man and a three-year-old boy, raising the Gaza death toll to 2,131.

On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, the vast majority soldiers.

On Monday, 71 rockets fired from Gaza struck the Israeli south, while another nine were shot down, the army said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel would hit any place from which militants were firing, including homes.

His remarks came as the air force bombed a 12-storey residential block.

But by early Monday, there was increasing talk about a possible new cease-fire agreement which would see the delegations return to Cairo to resume discussions on an Egyptian proposal to broker a longer-term end to the violence.

"There is an idea for a temporary cease-fire that opens the crossings, allows aid and reconstruction material, and the disputed points will be discussed in a month," a senior Palestinian official told AFP in Cairo.

"We would be willing to accept this, but are waiting for the Israeli response to this proposal," he said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Another Palestinian official said Egypt might invite Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams to return to Cairo within 48 hours.

"Efforts are ongoing to reach an agreement," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, without going into specifics.

Daud Shihab, Islamic Jihad's spokesman, confirmed such efforts were under way.

"The success of contacts (talks) to reach a cease-fire depends on Palestinian demands being met," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, with Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev saying Israel's position of no negotiations under fire had "not changed."

But Israeli Science Minister Yaakov Peri, an observer at the Security Cabinet and former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, said if the rocket fire stopped, it was likely talks would resume.

"If a cease-fire goes into effect, and it sticks, there is a good chance that the prime minister will instruct the delegation to return to the talks in Cairo," he told public radio.

"Generally, we will agree to open the crossings," he said, referring to Erez and the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing for humanitarian aid, which Israel was "also willing to increase."

Regarding the Rafah crossing with Egypt, "that is a decision for the Egyptians," although Israel would support the deployment of Palestinian Authority security personnel at the terminal, he said, defining the broad outline of any arrangement.

But a more comprehensive deal - involving Israel facilitating the reconstruction of Gaza in exchange for its demilitarization - was "far off," he said.

The invitation to new truce talks came after Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas Saturday.

Egypt has repeatedly urged all parties to accept an open-ended truce and return to the negotiating table in Cairo.

Abbas is expected to convene a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in Ramallah Thursday, a Palestinian official said without elaborating.

Previous temporary cease-fires have failed to result in agreement, although back-to-back extensions have given millions of people periods of relief from incessant bombardment and rocket fire.

Hamas, the de facto authority in Gaza, says any truce must provide for a lifting of Israel's crippling eight-year blockade and the opening of a seaport and airport, while Israel has demanded Gaza be demilitarized.

Senior Palestine Liberation Organization official Wasel Abu Yusef told AFP the Palestinian leadership is to demand the U.N. Security Council set a deadline for ending the Israeli occupation.

Such a move would likely be vetoed by the United States which traditionally opposes any step perceived as anti-Israeli at the Security Council.

In the northern occupied West Bank, a 14-year-old Palestinian died of wounds sustained Friday in clashes during a protest against the Gaza war. At least 20 Palestinians have been killed during such protests since July 8, U.N. figures show.

Elsewhere, Iran said it would "accelerate" moves to arm West Bank Palestinians, a day after claiming it had shot down an Israeli drone above one of its uranium enrichment sites.

 

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Summary

Violence reverberated across Gaza Monday with at least eight Palestinians killed in Israeli airstrikes as Egypt proposed a new cease-fire that would open key crossings into the blockaded territory.

Since an earlier truce collapsed on August 19, the death toll in Gaza has risen steadily with 109 Palestinians killed in more than 350 Israeli airstrikes across the territory.

Over the same period, more than 650 rockets have struck Israeli territory, one of which killed a 4-year-old boy over the weekend, army figures show.

Since midnight Sunday, 30 Israeli strikes have killed eight Palestinians, including a woman, a 78-year-old man and a three-year-old boy, raising the Gaza death toll to 2,131 .

On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, the vast majority soldiers.

On Monday, 71 rockets fired from Gaza struck the Israeli south, while another nine were shot down, the army said.

Another Palestinian official said Egypt might invite Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams to return to Cairo within 48 hours.


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