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June 27, 2017

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Life stirs in Gaza as new 72-hour truce takes hold amid Egypt talks

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories--Israel and Hamas on Monday stuck to a 72-hour cease-fire in Gaza as Egyptian mediators launched fresh talks with negotiators aimed at securing a permanent cessation of hostilities.

Quiet returned to the enclave from midnight (2100 GMT on Sunday), the fruit of days of Egyptian-brokered mediation to stem violence which has killed 1,939 Palestinians and 67 on the Israeli side since July 8.

More than 12 hours into the truce, there were no reports of violations on either side and signs of life emerged on the streets of the war-torn coastal enclave which is home to 1.8 million Palestinians.

Shops and businesses opened their doors and outside a U.N.-run school, a clutch of cars and donkey carts waited to take some refugees back to homes they had fled during the fighting.

"We want to go back to see what happened to our house," said Hikmat Atta, 58, who piled his family into a small cart to visit the home they left in the northern town of Beit Lahiya in the first days of the war.

But with the second truce in a week still in its early stages, he was not taking any chances.

"We're just going back for the day, at night we'll come back here," he told AFP.

Palestinian emergency services said that a 1-month-old baby girl died Monday of injuries sustained during the offensive in the central Gaza Strip.

Shuttle Diplomacy

In Cairo, Egyptian intelligence mediators threw themselves back into shuttle diplomacy that unraveled after rocket attacks breached the previous 72-hour truce on Friday.

They spent Monday locked in talks with the Palestinian delegation and were to relay their demands to Israeli negotiators, who returned to Cairo three days after abandoning the talks when Palestinian rocket attacks resumed on southern Israel.

Egypt has urged the warring sides to use the new lull to reach "a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire," after efforts to extend a similar truce last week collapsed into a firestorm of violence.

Israel insists that the security of millions of its citizens subject to constant fear from Palestinian rocket attacks be guaranteed.

Hamas, the de facto power in Gaza, has conditioned its acceptance of any permanent agreement on Israel lifting its eight-year blockade on Gaza.

"In the case of Israeli procrastination or continued aggression, Hamas is ready with other Palestinian factions to resist on the ground and politically," its exiled leader Khaled Meshaal told AFP in Doha.

Gaza Reconstruction

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