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article imagePalestinians and Israelis agree to new ceasefire

By Nathan Salant     Aug 12, 2014 in World
Cairo - Gaza Strip communities stayed quiet Sunday and Monday as a new 72-hour ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas took hold.
Israel announced Sunday that an agreement had been reached after hours of negotiations in Cairo with the help of Egyptian diplomats, according to the Reuters news service.
The ceasefire extends a previous 72-hour lull after a month of missile launches and bomb attacks that have become an international crisis.
Nearly 2,000 Palestinians and more than 60 Israelis have been killed in the past month of violence, which began after three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered in the West Bank.
Hamas, a group considered terrorists by the United States, Israel and most Western countries, has ruled Gaza and its 1.8 million residents since ousting the Palestinian Authority government in 2007.
"Israel has accepted Egypt's proposal," an Israeli government official told Reuters, and planned to return to Cairo on Monday to resume talks aimed at implementing an even longer ceasefire.
A Hamas official told Reuters that his organization and other Gaza militants had accepted Egypt's proposal to continue talks.
Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's existence and will not speak directly with Israeli negotiators.
Egypt's Foreign Ministry issued a statement appealing to "both sides to exploit this truce to resume indirect negotiations immediately and work towards a comprehensive and lasting ceasefire agreement," Reuters said.
Israel's negotiating team had left Cairo on Friday after the earlier ceasefire had expired.
Hamas wants Israel to end its blockade of the coastal territory and reopen border crossings to allow residents and businesses to restock their supplies and resume trade with other countries.
Hamas also wants a seaport and to reopen Gaza's international airport, which has been closed since 2001 and has been almost completely destroyed.
But Israel contends that the future of the blockade and of Gaza development should be the subjects of negotiations on a permanent peace agreement.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters that the current three-day truce was "the last chance" for a deal.
Israeli air strikes and shelling resumed for a third day Sunday before the new ceasefire was announced.
Nine Palestinians were killed on Sunday, Reuters said.
The Israeli military said it targeted 11 "terror squads" in Gaza that were involved in or preparing to fire rockets at Israel.
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