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Palestinians, Israelis agree to new 72-hour Gaza truce



Gaza: A Palestinian official said on Sunday that an agreement had been reached on a new 72-hour Gaza ceasefire.

Israel has accepted a new Gaza ceasefire proposed by Egyptian mediators and will send negotiators to Cairo on Monday if the truce holds, Israeli officials said.

"The Israeli and the Palestinian sides have agreed to the new 72-hour truce to begin serious negotiations leading to a durable ceasefire," said the official, who is close to Egyptian-mediated talks.

He said an Israeli delegation, which left Cairo  before a previous three-day truce expired on Friday, would return there before midnight (2100 GMT), and that a ceasefire could begin at that time.

Four weeks of bloody fighting have killed more than 1,917 Palestinians and 67 people on the Israeli side, most of them soldiers.

The UN says around three quarters of those killed in Gaza were civilians, around a third of them children.

On the ground, Gazans endured yet another day of fear on Sunday as the air force hit 35 targets, killing two 17-year-old youths in central Gaza and the northern town of Beit Hanun.

Militants launched 21 rockets over the border, 16 of which struck southern Israel and three which were shot down, with the rest falling short inside Palestinian territory, the army said.

In Deir Al Balah, an angry crowd of young men bellowed slogans as they carried the bloodied body of a teenager to its burial side.

The army described the youth as a "prominent terror operative."
"God loves martyrs! We will march on Jerusalem in our millions," chanted mourners.

At the graveside, neighbours passed around pieces of shrapnel as he was laid to rest in a plot where several other freshly-dug graves laid open, as if prepared for further deaths.

Since a 72-hour truce ended on Friday, Gaza has been plunged back into an abyss of violence, with the

Israeli military hitting more than 160 targets and killing 16 people, and Palestinian militants launching 110 rockets of which 85 smashed into Israel.

So far, Egyptian efforts to broker an end to more than a month of fighting have led nowhere.

"Israel will not engage in negotiations under fire," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday, warning that Operation Protective Edge would continue until Israel ensured prolonged quiet for its citizens.

Meanwhile, Israel said it had closed its Kerem Shalom commercial crossing into the southern Gaza Strip after it was struck twice by rocket fire, once shortly after dawn, and again at around noon.

"After continuous and intentional rocket fire at the Kerem Shalom crossing this morning and this afternoon, during which trucks carrying flammable materials to the Gaza Strip were almost hit, we took the exceptional decision to close the crossing in order to protect the lives of workers and traders," a defence ministry statement said.

In the West Bank, an 11-year-old Palestinian boy was shot dead by Israeli troops as he played outside his home in Al-Fawwar refugee camp near the southern city of Hebron, relatives and medics said.

The army said troops had opened fire during a "violent riot" but said it had opened an investigation into the circumstances of the shooting.

Israel's Gaza operation has triggered a series of almost daily protests across the West Bank, during which 16 Palestinians have been killed, the Ramallah-based health ministry said.

In Cairo, Mussa Abu Marzuq, deputy head of Hamas's exiled leadership, said Sunday would be crucial for deciding "the fate of the negotiations."

And in Gaza, Hamas spokesman Abu Zuhri said Netanyahu would be "fully responsible" if he allowed the Cairo talks to collapse.

Netanyahu is facing increasing pressure from hardliners to send troops back in to Gaza to topple Hamas, the de facto power in the battered Palestinian enclave.

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