Smoke rises after an explosion in what witnesses said was
an Israeli air strike in Gaza. REUTERS/Ahmed Zakot
Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to an Egyptian
proposal for a new 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza, officials from
the warring sides say.
"Israel has accepted Egypt's proposal," a senior Israeli
government official said, adding Israeli negotiators would
return to Cairo on Monday to resume indirect talks with the
Palestinians if the truce held.
The ceasefire is scheduled to start at 2100 GMT on Sunday.
The Israeli team had flown home on Friday before a previous
three-day truce expired and hostilities in the month-old
conflict broke out again.
A Hamas official said Palestinian factions had accepted
Egypt's call and that the Cairo talks would continue.
In a statement, Egypt's Foreign Ministry urged "both sides to
exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations
immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting
Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will
not negotiate under fire" and warned of a protracted Israeli
military campaign in the Gaza Strip if rocket salvoes
Hamas has demanded an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades
of the coastal territory and the opening of a Gaza seaport -
a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future
talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.
Israeli air strikes and shelling on Sunday killed five
Palestinians in Gaza, including a boy of 14 and a woman,
medics said, in a third day of renewed fighting.
Since the previous ceasefire expired, Palestinian rocket and
mortar salvoes have focused on Israeli kibbutzim, or
collective farms, just across the border in what appeared to
be a strategy of sapping the Jewish state's morale without
triggering another ground invasion of the tiny Gaza Strip.
A month of war has killed 1,895 Palestinians and 67 Israelis
while devastating wide tracts of densely-populated Gaza. But
international pressure for a ceasefire has been weaker than
in earlier rounds of Israeli-Palestinian conflict given other
international security crises, notably in Iraq and Ukraine,
distracting major powers.
However, the violence over the past three days has been less
intense than at the war's outset, with reduced firing on both
sides. Israel withdrew ground forces from Gaza on Tuesday.
Before the truce ran out, Israel said it was ready to agree
to an extension. Hamas did not agree, calling for an end to
the economically stifling blockade of the enclave that both
Israel and Egypt, which regards the Islamist movement as a
security threat, have imposed.
Israel has resisted easing access to Gaza, suspecting Hamas
could then restock with weapons from abroad.
A sticking point has been Israel's demand for guarantees that
Hamas would not use any reconstruction supplies sent to Gaza
to build more tunnels of the sort that Palestinian fighters
have used to infiltrate the Jewish state.
Egypt is meeting separately with each party, given that Hamas
rejects Israel's right to exist and Israel regards the group
as a terrorist organisation.
Gaza hospital officials say the Palestinian death toll has
been mainly civilian since the July 8 launch of Israel's
military campaign to quell Gaza rocket fire.
Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians to the war,
where losses of non-combatants in Gaza and the destruction of
thousands of homes have drawn international condemnation.
Israeli tanks and infantry left the enclave on Tuesday after
the army said it had completed its main mission of destroying
more than 30 tunnels dug by militants for cross-border
In renewed fighting since the end of a three-day truce on
Friday, Israel has killed 16 Palestinians in air strikes.
Militants have fired more than 100 projectiles, mostly
short-range rockets and mortar bombs, at Israel.
Though Israel's Iron Dome rocket interceptor does not work at
such short ranges - a version called "Iron Beam" is being
developed to shoot down mortars - there have been few
casualties, largely because as many as 80 percent of the
border kibbutzim's 5,000 residents fled before last week's
Some said on Sunday they would not return to their
communities, which have long been symbols of Israel's
pioneering spirit - an abandonment likely to raise pressure
(Additional reporting by Lin Noueihed in Cairo, Dan Williams,
Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem; Writing by
Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Janet Lawrence)