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Islamic Jihad announces 'open-ended' cease-fire deal with Israel

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories -- Officials from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the main groups fighting in Gaza, said Tuesday they have reached a deal with Israel to end a seven-week war that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians.

There was no immediate Israeli comment.

Ziad Nakhala, a senior official in Islamic Jihad, said the deal calls for an “open-ended” cease-fire, and an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory.

Talks on more complex issues, such as Hamas' demand to build an airport and a seaport for Gaza, would begin in a month, he said.

Egypt planned an announcement later Tuesday, he said.

The Hamas official, who spoke on condition of anonymity pending the announcement, confirmed the terms.

If the details of the cease-fire are confirmed, it would effectively mean Hamas and Islamic Jihad settled for terms that are similar to those that ended more than a week of fighting with Israel in 2012.

Under those terms, Israel promised to ease restrictions gradually, while Hamas pledged to halt rocket fire from Gaza at Israel. The truce held for long stretches, but Gaza's border blockade also remained largely intact.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade in 2007, after Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007. Under the restrictions, virtually all of Gaza's 1.8 million people cannot trade or travel. Only a few thousand are able to leave the coastal territory every month.

During the war, Hamas had said it would only cease fire if the blockade is lifted.

However, Israeli pressure on the group has been escalating. Hamas is believed to be left with just one-third of its initial rocket arsenal of 10,000, while Israel says it has destroyed most of Hamas' network of military attack tunnels.

Israeli strikes have destroyed or severely damaged more than 17,000 Gaza homes, according to U.N. estimates, leaving about 100,000 people homeless. The number of dead has also been rising steadily, reaching at least 2,138 by Tuesday, with more than 11,000 Gazans wounded since July 8.

On the Israeli side, 68 people have been killed, all but four of them soldiers. Thousands of Israelis living near Gaza have fled their homes, including in recent days when Gaza militants stepped up mortar fire on southern Israel.

In Gaza, Israel also escalated its strikes, toppling five high-rise buildings housing offices, apartments and shops since this weekend.

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Palestinians inspect the rubble of the destroyed 15-story Basha Tower following early morning Israeli airstrikes in Gaza City on Tuesday, Aug. 26. Israel bombed two Gaza City high-rises containing dozens of homes and shops Tuesday, collapsing the 15-story Basha Tower and severely damaging the Italian Complex. (AP)

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