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Palestinians to quit Gaza talks if Israel no-show

CAIRO - Palestinian negotiators threatened to quit Egyptian-brokered Gaza war truce talks Sunday unless Israeli negotiators return to Cairo — the latest sign of the vast gaps between the sides on a new border deal for the blockaded territory.

Israeli officials have said their negotiators, who left Egypt on Friday, only will return if the rocket fire from Gaza stops. Hamas has refused to extend a temporary truce that helped launch the Cairo talks last week, saying it wants guarantees from Israel first that Gaza's borders will open. Israel and Egypt have enforced the blockade, to varying degrees, since Hamas seized Gaza in 2007.

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. Israel has responded with dozens of airstrikes on Gaza, including at least 20 on Sunday. Gaza officials said Sunday's strikes killed at least two Palestinians.

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.

Instead, one proposal circulated by the Egyptian mediators over the weekend offered an easing of some of the restrictions, according to Palestinian negotiators who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss internal deliberations with journalists. It was not clear if this was an Egyptian or an Israeli proposal.

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 Egypt court dissolves Muslim Brotherhood political wing 
In this photo made on Thursday Aug. 7, disabled Sally Saqr, 20, who was wounded on July 12, in Beit Lahiya during Israeli shelling of a care center for the handicapped, lies on a mattress at her family home in Gaza City. Her pelvis, both legs and an arm were broken, her skull fractured, much of her body burned.

(AP)

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