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Israeli airstrikes kill 4 in Gaza

Updated: 2014-08-26 06:54
By Agence France-Presse in Gaza City (China Daily)

Egypt works on new cease-fire to reopen crossings

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

Since an earlier cease-fire arrangement collapsed on Aug 19, the death toll in Gaza has risen steadily, with 106 Palestinians killed in more than 350 Israeli airstrikes across the territory.

Israeli airstrikes kill 4 in Gaza

A general view of the remains of a mosque, which witnesses said was hit by an Israeli airstrike, is seen in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip, on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Palestinian civilians on Sunday to leave immediately any site where militants are operating, one day after Israel flattened a 13-story apartment block in Gaza. Palestinian health officials say 2,115 people have been killed in the Gaza Strip since July 8, when Israel launched its offensive. Mohammed Salem / Reuters

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. About 100 rockets were shot down.

Since midnight, Israeli airstrikes on northern Gaza have killed four Palestinians, including two women and a 3-year-old boy, medics said, raising the Palestinian death toll to 2,124 in seven weeks of violence.

On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, four of them civilians and the rest soldiers.

Another 38 rockets fired from Gaza struck the Israeli south on Sunday, while another was shot down, army statistics showed.

Following a weekend of heavy fire on the south, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Israel would not be worn down by persistent rocket fire and that the operation would not end until quiet was restored.

"Our enemies ... will not succeed in wearing us down. Against their attrition, they will be struck very hard," he said on Sunday, warning that Israel will hit anywhere militants were firing, including homes.

His remarks came as the air force stepped up its campaign against rocket fire, firing missiles that leveled a 12-story residential block.

But by early Monday, there was increasing chatter about a possible new cease-fire agreement that would see the delegations return to Cairo to resume talks on an Egyptian proposal to broker a more permanent end to the violence.

Waiting for Israel

"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 elaborating.

Daud Shihab, Islamic Jihad's spokesman, also confirmed such efforts were underway.

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

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

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

Israel withdrew its negotiators on Aug 19 after rocket fire on the south shattered a 24-hour truce about eight hours before it was to expire.

The Palestinian negotiating team left the Egyptian capital a day later, bringing the talks to a standstill.

Previous temporary cease-fires have failed to result in any 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.

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