Wednesday 26 October 2016

Israel Pounds Gaza as Palestinians Urge Resumption of Talks

Gaza City
File - AP/PTI

Palestinian negotiators have warned they will leave Cairo today if their Israeli counterparts do not show up for truce talks, after Israel pummelled Gaza with fresh air strikes that killed nine more Palestinians.

Negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza are expected to resume in Cairo today with an Israeli delegation scheduled to arrive in the city, where a Palestinian team and Egyptian mediators are waiting.

But an Israeli official told AFP that talks could not take place until Palestinian rocket fire came to a halt. Militants slammed 25 rockets into Israel yesterday, amid mounting calls for a new ceasefire to halt fighting that has left nearly 2,000 Palestinians dead over the last four weeks along with 67 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

The Palestinian delegation warned they would leave the Egyptian capital if no delegation showed up, with one senior Palestinian setting a 1300 GMT deadline.

"We have a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) with Egyptian (mediators). If we confirm that the Israeli delegation is placing conditions for its return, we will not accept any conditions," lead negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP.

Another senior Palestinian negotiator said they had given the Israeli delegation until 1300 GMT on Sunday.

Britain, France and Germany yesterday urged Israel and Hamas - the Islamist movement in de facto control of Gaza - to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

A Hamas leader, Mussa Abu Marzuq, warned that the next 24 hours would be crucial. Israel "is stalling and the next 24 hours will decide the fate of the negotiations," he said.

The Cairo talks broke down on Friday after Hamas accused Israel of stalling and refused to extend a 72-hour ceasefire, setting off renewed hostilities that left eight Palestinians dead as Israeli warplanes battered Gaza with 50 air strikes.

The United Nations says at least 1,354 of the Palestinians killed were civilians, including 447 children.

The Palestinian interior ministry said Israeli jets destroyed three mosques yesterday. At least two of them were considered close to Hamas.

The Israeli army said 25 rockets rained on Israel, bringing to 63 the number of projectiles launched at the Jewish state since the 72-hour truce ended on Friday morning.

Israel says it has carried out more than 100 strikes in Gaza since Friday morning, targeting those responsible for the rocket fire.

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