Israel accepts new proposals on Gaza ceasefire

Egypt had called on Israel and Palestinians to commit to truce starting tonight


A Palestinian negotiator says his team will leave Egyptian-brokered talks on ending the Gaza war unless Israeli negotiators return to Cairo.

Israeli negotiators left Cairo on Friday. Israeli officials have said the team will not return as long as rocket fire from Gaza continues.

The Israeli army says Gaza militants have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel over the weekend, including two this morning.

Bassam Salhi, a Palestinian negotiator, says his team met Egyptian mediators late last night.

He said today: “We told the Egyptians that if the Israelis are not coming and if there is no significant development, we are leaving today.”

The indirect talks between Israel and a Palestinian delegation that includes Hamas began last week.

Hamas has said it wants assurances by Israel that it is willing to lift the blockade on Gaza before observing another ceasefire.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would stay away from Egyptian-mediated truce talks with Hamas as long as Palestinian rocket and mortar attacks from the Gaza Strip continued.

“Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Mr Netanyahu said in broadcast remarks at the weekly meeting of his cabinet, in Tel Aviv today.

“At no stage did we declare (Israel’s military offensive) was over,” he said. “The operation will continue until its objective - the restoration of quiet over a protraced period - is achieved. I said at the beginning and throughout the operation - it will take time, and stamina is required.”

Israel and Egypt have enforced a border closure of Gaza, to varying degrees, since the Islamic militant Hamas seized the territory in 2007.

Israel has said it will not open Gaza’s borders unless militant groups, including Hamas, disarm. Hamas has said handing over its weapons arsenal, which is believed to include several thousand remaining rockets, is inconceivable.

Instead, one proposal circulated by the Egyptian mediators over the weekend offered a minor easing of some of the restrictions, according to Palestinian negotiators.

The Palestinian negotiators said they rejected the ideas, insisting on a complete end to the blockade.

The Palestinian team includes Hamas officials and representatives of Western-backed Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas, from whom Hamas took Gaza in 2007.

The indirect talks started last week during a three-day truce Hamas refused to extend.

There are reports today that Israeli soldiers killed a Palestinian boy during a confrontation with rock-throwing protesters in the occupied West Bank.

Youssef al-Anati said his 11-year-old nephew, Khalil, was shot dead even though he was not taking part in the disturbances near the city of Hebron. The boy was taken to a local hospital, which said he had been hit in the back with a live bullet.

The Gaza war erupted on July 8th following weeks of escalating tensions between Israel and Hamas.

Israel launched an air campaign on the coastal territory, sending in ground troops nine days later to target rocket launchers and cross-border tunnels built by Hamas for attacks inside Israel.

Israel has targeted close to 5,000 sites, the army has said, while Gaza militants have fired more than 3,000 rockets into Israel.

Gaza’s civilians, especially children, have paid a steep price.

Of more than 1,900 people killed, at least 450 were children, according to Palestinian health officials. Children also made up almost one-third of close to 10,000 wounded.

More than 10,000 homes have been destroyed, leaving some 65,000 people homeless, according to UN estimates.

Tens of thousands fled fighting in the border areas, including heavy Israeli tank shelling, and are staying in crowded UN shelters.