Resume ceasefire, Egypt urges Palestinians, Israelis as conflict renews

Cairo, Aug 8 (IANS): The Egyptian Foreign Ministry in a statement Friday urged both the Palestinians and the Israelis to "return to commitment to ceasefire, and resume negotiations" even as Gaza came under attack resulting in the death of a 10-year-old boy.

Egypt recently managed to broker a 72-hour humanitarian truce that expired early Friday, and mediated indirect talks between the Palestinians and the Israelis to extend the truce so as to end the bloodshed in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

Intensified indirect talks in Cairo with the Palestinian and Israeli delegations failed to persuade the two parties to extend the truce, with each party insisting on specific conditions, Xinhua reported.

The Palestinian conditions included withdrawal of the Israeli forces from Gaza, lifting Israel's seven-year-long blockade against the Strip, opening the border crossings, releasing Palestinian prisoners agreed upon with Israel in a previous prisoner swap, allowing establishment of a seaport and an airport in Gaza and holding an international donor conference for Gaza's reconstruction.

Israel declined most of the demands, and insisted on its right to military operations in Gaza and on disarming Hamas militants, but it agreed to consider Rafah border crossing a Palestinian-Egyptian affair and to release some Palestinian prisoners.

"Egypt renews its demands of maintaining self-restraint, stopping military escalation and not targeting civilians in Gaza," the foreign ministry statement said, stressing Egypt's keenness on providing protection for the disarmed Palestinian people. 

In-mid July, Egypt proposed an immediate ceasefire initiative between Israel and Hamas, but it was rejected by Hamas, demanding a comprehensive solution, including lifting the Israeli blockade of the enclave.

Meanwhile, two Israelis were injured from a rocket attack in southern Israel Friday morning, an Israel Defence Forces (IDF) spokesperson said in a statement.

As a result of a rocket strike on the Sdot Negev regional council in southern Israel, a civilian a soldier were injured. According to the IDF, since 8 a.m., more than 33 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip towards Israel.

The military spokesperson added that 26 of the rockets landed in southern Israeli territories, three were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile battery and four landed short in the Gaza Strip.

Earlier Friday, the IDF renewed its attacks on the Gaza Strip by air and artillery, in response to the rocket barrages. The Palestinians reported that a 10 year-old boy was killed in one of the air strikes.

"This morning, following renewed rocket launching at Israel, the IDF targeted terror sites across the Gaza Strip," the IDF said in a statement earlier. "The IDF remains alert and maintains a high level of preparedness with both defensive and striking capabilities, in order to address the renewed aggression," it added.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered army forces to "respond forcefully" to rocket attacks, which came immediately after the expiry of the three-day truce.

Israeli soldiers evacuated from the Gaza Strip early in the week, after a ground operation which started July 17 to neutralise underground tunnels and rocket caches, but there are still military forces spread near the Strip in case the fighting escalates.

The Israeli delegation returned to Israel from Cairo Friday at 7 a.m., an hour before the fighting was resumed. It is unclear if and when the delegation will return to Cairo.

So far, the Israeli offensive on the restive coastal enclave, which lasted for almost one month, has left about 1,900 Palestinians killed and over 9,500 wounded. 

On the Israeli side, 64 soldiers were killed in the country's ground incursion, and three civilians were killed in rocket attacks, as Hamas and other Palestinian militant factions fired nearly 3,000 rockets towards cities across Israel.


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Title: Resume ceasefire, Egypt urges Palestinians, Israelis as conflict renews

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