Egypt proposes new Gaza ceasefire deal

Egyptian mediators proposed on Monday a new ceasefire that would open the crossings of the blockaded Gaza Strip and allow in aid and reconstruction materials, a senior Palestinian official said, as the Israeli army continued its almost two-month long offensive on the enclave.

The Palestinians, including the de facto Hamas rulers of the enclave, would be willing to accept such a deal if Israel does, the official told Agence France-Presse.

The proposal would defer to a later date negotiations on disputed points that have prevented a long-term ceasefire deal, he added.

An Egyptian official confirmed that mediators have contacted the Palestinians and Israel with a new proposal.

"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," the Palestinian official said.

"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 in 48 hours.

A previous ceasefire to end the devastating conflict in Gaza collapsed on August 19 after Egyptian mediators were unable to bridge the gaps between the two sides.

New recorded messages

Meanwhile, Gazans said they received new recorded messages on mobile phones and landlines saying Israel would target any house used to launch “terror attacks” and telling civilians to leave areas used by militants.

“To Hamas leaders and to the residents of Gaza: The battle is open and you have been warned,” Gazans reported the received messages on their phones as saying on Monday.

Death toll

Israeli air strikes killed at least nine Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and militants kept up cross-border rocket fire on Monday as tens of thousands of Israelis have fled their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip.

Israeli aircraft attacked four homes in the town of Beit Lahiya, near the Israeli border, killing two women and a girl, witnesses and health officials said.

Locals told Reuters a member of the Hamas group that dominates Gaza lived in one of the dwellings. Six other Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes, including three men in an attack on a car and a Gaza journalist identified as Abdallah Murtaja in a separate attack, officials said.

After nightfall an Israeli air strike outside a Gaza City mosque wounded 25 people, as worshippers filed out after evening prayers, Gaza health officials said.

More than 100 rockets were launched at southern Israel on Monday, and one Israeli was wounded by a mortar bomb, the army said.

Palestinian health officials say 2,123 people, most of them civilians, including more than 490 children, have been killed in Gaza since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.

Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.

Hamas claimed responsibility for firing rockets at Tel Aviv, at least one of which was shot down by Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor. Warning sirens were also heard in Israeli communities bordering on Ben-Gurion International Airport.

Israeli exodus from border

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Israelis have fled their homes along the border with the Gaza Strip, reflecting growing fear and frustration over the war with Hamas and the Palestinian mortar fire raining down on their communities, the Associated Press reported.

With the school year fast approaching, the government began offering assistance to residents Monday in the first large-scale voluntary evacuation in nearly eight weeks of fighting.

Officials estimate that 70 percent of the 40,000 inhabitants of the farming communities along the Gaza border have left, including hundreds on Monday.

Fields that once yielded vegetables and flowers are barren and pockmarked by Palestinian mortar shells. Streets are empty and most homes eerily silent.

“The community is very close to the border, and we have almost no warning of incoming fire,” said Elazar Ashtivkar, a 30-year-old father of four who left Nahal Oz, the scene of the deadly attack, several weeks ago with his family.

He said the family is now staying in a nearby kibbutz, where he has 15 to 20 seconds to get to a shelter, which he said is an improvement.

He said nearly all of Nahal Oz’s roughly 400 residents have left. Only a few workers in charge of taking care of the cows along with some security personnel remain, he said.

“The agricultural fields were destroyed. There is nothing now,” he said.

He said he will return as soon as it is safe. “We just want quiet. We don’t want to be scared when our kids go to school,” he said.

The military says Gaza militants have fired at least 1,400 mortars on the border communities since the fighting began.

Meanwhile, the Bank of Israel, fearing the conflict would slow economic growth, cut its benchmark interest rate by a quarter-point to 0.25 percent, its lowest level ever.

(With AFP, Reuters and Associated Press)

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Last Update: 06:43 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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