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Updated: Sun, 10 Aug 2014 16:35:18 GMT | By The Associated Press, cbc.ca

Gaza conflict: Israel, Palestinians accept Egypt proposal for 72-hour ceasefire



Protesters against military action in Gaza gather by the BBC building in central London, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Israeli airstrikes struck more than 20 targets Saturday in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior Hamas member, as militant rocket fire continued following the collapse of a three-day truce aimed at ending the war between Israel and Hamas. John Stillwell/Associated Press

Protesters against military action in Gaza gather by the BBC building in central London, Saturday, Aug. 9, 2014. Israeli airstrikes struck more than 20 targets Saturday in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior Hamas member, as militant rocket fire continued following the collapse of a three-day truce aimed at ending the war between Israel and Hamas. John Stillwell/Associated Press

Israeli and Palestinian officials have accepted a new Gaza ceasefire proposed by Egyptian mediators and will send negotiators to Cairo on Monday if the truce holds.

Egypt crafted a new truce plan to try to keep indirect Israeli-Palestinian talks alive. The new ceasefire that would start at 11 p.m. local time and be in effect for 72 hours. A previous three-day pause in the violence expired on Friday.

Earlier Sunday, Israeli air strikes and shelling killed three Palestinians in Gaza, including a boy of 14 and a woman, medics said.

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Since Friday, Palestinian rocket and mortar salvos have focused on Israeli kibbutzim, or collective farms, just across the border in what appeared to be a strategy of sapping the Jewish state's morale without triggering another ground invasion of the tiny Gaza Strip.

A month of war has killed 1,893 Palestinians and 67 Israelis while devastating wide tracts of small, densely populated Gaza. But international pressure for a ceasefire has been weaker than in earlier rounds of Israeli-Palestinian conflict given other international security crises distracting major powers.

In fact, Israeli representatives had flown home on Friday, hours before the previous truce ended, and Palestinian delegates threatened to leave unless they came back.

Azzam Ahmed, an official from the mainstream Fatah movement who is leading the Palestinian team, had accused Israel of intransigence and said the Palestinians were willing to continue talks aimed at achieving a lasting truce and facilitating aid to the devastated enclave, where thousands of homes lie in ruin.

In Tel Aviv earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "Israel will not negotiate under fire".

"The operation will continue until its objective - the restoration of quiet over a protracted period — is achieved," he said in public remarks at the weekly cabinet meeting. 

However, the violence over the past three days has been less intense than at the war's outset, with reduced firing on both sides. Israel withdrew ground forces from Gaza on Tuesday.

Concerns about tunnels

Before the truce ran out on Friday, Israel said it was ready to agree to an extension. Hamas did not agree, demanding an end to an economically stifling blockade of the coastal enclave that both Israel and Egypt, which regards the Islamist movement as a security threat, have imposed.

Israel has resisted easing access to Gaza, suspecting Hamas could then restock with weapons from abroad.

A sticking point has been Israel's demand for guarantees that Hamas would not use any reconstruction supplies sent to Gaza to build more tunnels of the sort that Palestinian fighters have used to infiltrate the Jewish state.

Gaza hospital officials say the Palestinian death toll has been mainly civilian since the July 8 launch of Israel's military campaign to quell Gaza rocket fire.

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians to the war, where losses of non-combatants in Gaza and the destruction of thousands of homes have drawn international condemnation.

Israeli tanks and infantry left the enclave on Tuesday after the army said it had completed its main mission of destroying more than 30 tunnels dug by guerrillas for cross-border attacks.

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