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Israel, Hamas truce not near



Date published: 11/20/2012

BY IBRAHIM BARZAK and KARIN LAUB

Associated Press

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip

--Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers traded fire and tough cease-fire proposals Monday, and threatened to escalate their border conflict if diplomacy fails. No deal appeared near.

An Israeli airstrike targeting a Gaza media center killed a senior militant and engulfed the building in flames, while Gaza fighters fired 95 rockets at Israel, nearly one-third of them intercepted by an Israeli missile shield.

The number of people killed in Gaza since the start of Israel's offensive rose to 109 on Monday, including 56 civilians. Some 840 people have been wounded, including 225 children, Gaza health officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed and dozens have been wounded.

Over the weekend, civilian casualties in Gaza rose sharply after Israel began targeting the homes of what it said were suspected militants. Two such strikes late Monday killed five people--a father and his 4-year-old twin sons in northern Gaza and two people in the south, medics said.

Egyptian intelligence officials met separately in Cairo with an Israeli envoy and with Khaled Mashaal, the top Hamas leader in exile.

Hamas wants Israel to halt all attacks on Gaza and lift tight restrictions on trade and movement in the territory ever since Hamas seized Gaza by force in 2007. Israel demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza and a halt to weapons smuggling into Gaza.

With positions far apart on a comprehensive deal, some close to the negotiations suggested Egypt is first seeking a halt to fighting before other conditions are discussed.

Mashaal told reporters that Hamas would agree to a cease-fire only if its demands are met. "We don't accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor," he said. "We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands."

Mashaal also suggested that Israel's threat of invading Gaza was a ploy. He said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "is waving the threat of a ground offensive and asking the world to pressure Egypt, Turkey and Qatar, so they pressure Hamas."

Israeli leaders have repeatedly threatened to widen the offensive, saying an invasion is an option. Israel has amassed troops on the Gaza border and begun calling up thousands of reservists.


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