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May 27, 2017

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Israel in Gaza air raids, Egypt plans latest truce

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories--Violence reverberated across Gaza on Monday with at least eight Palestinians killed in Israeli air strikes as Egypt proposed a new cease-fire that would open key crossings into the blockaded territory.

Since an earlier truce collapsed on August 19, the death toll in Gaza has risen steadily with 109 Palestinians killed in more than 350 Israeli air strikes across the territory.

Over the same period, more than 650 rockets have struck Israeli territory, one of which killed a four-year-old boy over the weekend, army figures show. Around 110 rockets were shot down.

Since midnight on Sunday, 30 Israeli strikes have killed eight Palestinians, including a woman, a 78-year-old man and a three-year-old boy, raising the Gaza death toll to 2,128.

On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, the vast majority soldiers.

On Monday 71 rockets fired from Gaza struck the Israeli south, while another nine were shot down, the army said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday Israel would hit any place from which militants were firing, including homes.

His remarks came as a 12-story residential block was bombed.

But by early Monday, there was increasing talk about a possible new cease-fire agreement which would see the delegations return to Cairo to resume discussions on an Egyptian proposal to broker a longer-term end to the violence.

Waiting for Israel

"There is an idea for a temporary ceasefire that opens the crossings, allows aid and reconstruction material, and the disputed points will be discussed in a month," a senior Palestinian official told AFP in Cairo.

"We would be willing to accept this, but are waiting for the Israeli response to this proposal," he said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Another Palestinian official said Egypt might invite Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams to return to Cairo within 48 hours.

"Efforts are ongoing to reach an agreement," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, without going into specifics.

Daud Shihab, Islamic Jihad's spokesman, confirmed such efforts were under way.

"The success of contacts (talks) to reach a cease-fire depends on Palestinian demands being met," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, with Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev saying Israel's position of no negotiations under fire had "not changed".

But Israeli Science Minister Yaakov Peri, an observer at the security cabinet and former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, said if the rocket fire stopped, it was likely talks would resume.

"If a ceasefire goes into effect, and it sticks, there is a good chance that the prime minister will instruct the delegation to return to the talks in Cairo," he told public radio.

"Generally, we will agree to open the crossings," he said, referring to Erez and the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing for humanitarian aid, which Israel was "also willing to increase".

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