Israeli soldiers, wounded during an offensive in Gaza, are evacuated near the border with central Gaza Strip July 23, 2014. REUTERS/Yossi Aloni
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Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal Wednesday stuck firmly to Palestinian demands to end a blockade on Gaza in exchange for a truce, as international efforts to halt the violence made only slow progress.Meshaal said Hamas would accept a temporary truce to allow humanitarian relief into the battered coastal territory but stressed his group would keep fighting against an Israeli offensive that has claimed nearly 700 Palestinian lives and would not agree to a more lasting cease-fire without full negotiation of terms. We need the calm for a few hours to evacuate the wounded and assist in the relief," he told a news conference in Qatar.He said that any more permanent cease-fire could only come about after the blockade on Gaza was lifted and could only be implemented after it had been fully negotiated. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reported only modest progress in efforts to end fighting that has so far killed more than 680 Palestinians, 31 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.
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