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Israel to weigh Egypt Gaza truce, Hamas says no deal

Update: July, 15/2014 - 10:51

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories — Israel said on Tuesday it would weigh an Egyptian truce proposal for Gaza, but Hamas appeared to reject the bid, as the death toll in the week-long conflict rose to 186 Palestinians.

The truce proposal came as Egyptian state media reported that US Secretary of State John Kerry was due in Cairo to discuss an end to the hostilities, and after Washington warned Israel against a ground invasion of Gaza.

Israel's Operation Protective Edge, intended to stamp out militant rocket fire, had killed 186 people in Gaza by late on Monday – exceeding the toll in the last similar flare-up of violence in 2012.

The heavy civilian toll, including women and children, has led to international calls for an immediate truce, with traditional mediator Egypt urged to negotiate a deal.

Late on Monday, Cairo announced a proposal for a ceasefire that would begin Tuesday, saying it was willing to host high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations for talks after a truce went into effect.

"0600 GMT has been set for the beginning of the implementation of truce arrangements between the two sides," the text of the Egyptian proposal, released late on Monday, said.

But that deadline was likely to be delayed, with Israel saying its security cabinet would meet on Tuesday morning to weigh the proposal.

And Hamas appeared to reject the idea, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying the group would not accept a truce without a fully-fledged deal to end hostilities.

"In times of war, you don't cease fire and then negotiate," he said.

He said Hamas had not received any official proposal, and that even an Israeli cessation of hostilities "on one side" would have "no value" after the damage it has wreaked in Gaza.

Earlier, Hamas's former prime minister Ismail Haniya said in a televised speech that "countries are intervening" to stop the bloodshed, and that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal was involved in "diplomatic moves," but did not elaborate. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, who heads the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority, welcomed the Egyptian initiative, urging the sides to stop firing.

US pressure

Among the issues to be discussed in any truce deal is the easing of the flow of goods into Gaza, which has been subject to an Israeli blockade for years. Hamas has said it wants Israel's blockade on Gaza lifted, along with the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt in any truce deal.

It also wants Israel to release Palestinians it rearrested after freeing them in exchange for kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Washington earlier warned its Israeli ally against a ground invasion of Gaza. The White House stopped short of criticising Israel over the civilian casualty toll from its devastating week-long air and artillery bombardment of the densely populated Palestinian enclave. AFP

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