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New 3-day Gaza ceasefire to start at midnight

Aug. 10, 2014 6:42 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 11, 2014 12:28 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Palestinian factions have agreed on a new 72-hour halt to hostilities in Gaza starting at midnight, sources close to the Cairo ceasefire talks told Ma'an Sunday.

The Israeli delegation was to return to Cairo later in the evening, the sources said.

They said that during the three-day ceasefire, there will be extensive negotiations to reach a more lasting ceasefire.

Meanwhile, humanitarian aid is expected to flow through Gaza crossings.

A Palestinian source in Cairo told AFP that the Egyptian mediators had received "simultaneous consensus" from both the Israeli and Palestinian side.

In order to reach a lasting truce in Gaza, Palestinians have demanded Israel end its eight-year siege on the Strip, release dozens of prisoners whom Israel has re-arrested that were released in 2011 as part of the Shalit exchange, re-open a seaport and airport in Gaza, and create a safe passage between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Egypt, for its part, insisted on a lifting of Israel's blockade on Gaza.

"This siege should be lifted in accordance to Israel's responsibilities as an occupation force," the foreign ministry in Cairo said in a statement.

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 Sunday as the air force hit 35 targets, killing two 17-year-old youths in central Gaza and the northern town of Beit Hanoun.

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, neighbors 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.

Rockets hit Kerem Shalom

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 hit Israel.

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 defense ministry statement said.

In the West Bank, a 12-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 17 Palestinians have been killed, the Ramallah-based health ministry said.

AFP contributed to this report
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