let-up in Gaza war as Egypt presses on with truce efforts
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[August 25, 2014]
By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes
killed at least five Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and militants kept
up their rocket fire on southern Israel on Monday, witnesses and
officials said, as Egypt pressed on with efforts to broker a durable
Gazans said they received new recorded messages on mobile phones
and landlines saying Israel would target any house used to launch
"terror attacks" and telling civilians to leave areas used my
Israeli aircraft attacked four homes in the Gaza town of Beit
Lahiya, near the Israeli border, killing two women and a girl,
witnesses and health officials said.
Locals told Reuters a member of the Hamas militant group that
dominates Gaza lived in one of the dwellings. Separate attacks
elsewhere in the Gaza Strip killed two other Palestinians, said
Militants launched about 40 rockets at southern Israel on Monday,
causing no casualties, the army said.
Palestinian health officials say 2,119 people, most of them
civilians including more than 400 children, have been killed in Gaza
since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared
aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been
Gazans said they had received messages on their phones for several
days, with a new recording on Monday ending with the words: "To
Hamas leaders and to the residents of Gaza: The battle is open and
you have been warned."
INDEFINITE CEASEFIRE PROPOSED
Qais Abu Leila, a senior Palestinian official involved in
Egyptian-mediated talks to reach a truce in seven weeks of fighting,
said Cairo had proposed an indefinite ceasefire.
Cairo's latest initiative calls for the immediate opening of Gaza's
crossings with Israel and Egypt to aid reconstruction efforts in the
battered coastal strip to be followed by talks on a longer-term
easing of the blockade.
"Egyptian efforts are continuing. The ball is in the Israeli court,
and they have not responded to this proposal 36 hours after it was
referred to them," Abu Leila told Reuters.
Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian
blockade on the enclave of 1.8 million people is lifted.
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Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are
demanding guarantees that weapons will not enter the
economically-crippled territory. Israel recalled its negotiators
from Cairo on Tuesday after a ceasefire collapsed.
In Gaza City on Sunday, an Israeli strike on a car killed Mohammed
al-Ghoul, described by the Israeli military as a Hamas official
responsible for "terror fund transactions". U.S. dollars were found
in the wrecked vehicle, witnesses said.
Israel later bombed and destroyed Ghoul's house. He was targeted
three days after Israel assassinated three top Hamas commanders in
the southern Gaza Strip.
Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged
in the conflict. Nearly 500,000 people have been displaced in the
territory where Palestinians, citing Israeli attacks that have hit
schools and mosques, say no place is safe.
Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties
because it operates among non-combatants. The group, it said, uses
schools and mosques to store weapons and as launching sites for
cross-border rocket attacks.
(Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning in Ramallah;
Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
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