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Palestinians to abandon Gaza truce talks unless Israeli team returns

David Buimovitch, AFP | A photo taken on August 9 shows the destruction in the Gaza Strip

Palestinian negotiators threatened to leave Cairo on Sunday if their Israeli counterparts did not show up for scheduled truce talks.


As the talks stalled, Israel responded to rocket fire from Gaza with at least 20 airstrikes, killing two boys, 11 and 14, and two other Palestinians, Gaza officials said.

Israeli officials have said their negotiators, who left Egypt on Friday, only will return if the rocket fire from Gaza stops.

“Israel will not negotiate under fire,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, warning his country’s military campaign “will take time.”

Since the truce expired Friday, smaller Gaza militant groups – though not Hamas, according to claims of responsibility – have fired dozens of rockets and mortar shells at Israel, including two on Sunday.

“If Hamas thinks it has worn us down, it is wrong,” Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said. “We will return to the table only after an end to the fire. ... We are not intending to compromise.”

The negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza were expected to resume in Cairo on Sunday. But while Egyptian mediators and a Palestinian team are already there, an Israeli delegation has yet to arrive.

The diplomatic standoff, coupled with the ongoing cross-border attacks, signaled that a broader deal for battered Gaza, as envisioned by the international community, likely will remain elusive.

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.

Various ideas have been raised to end Gaza’s isolation, including deploying international inspectors at all crossings to address Israeli security concerns about smuggling weapons and militants. Europe has floated the idea of a link between ports in Gaza and Cyprus, with inspectors at both ends checking people and cargo.

Palestinian officials have said that Israel has so far rejected such proposals.

Children account for a quarter of Gaza’s death toll

The Gaza war erupted on July 8, 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.

Navy gunboats fired at the Gaza fishing port, and fire erupted in the building where fishermen store their equipment, police said.

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.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

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