Israel hits Gaza after truce talks end

Israel launched fresh strikes in the Gaza Strip Friday after negotiators pursuing a long-stalled truce agreement left talks in Cairo without having secured a deal.

AFP journalists in the Gaza Strip early Friday witnessed artillery strikes on Rafah on the territory's southern border with Egypt, while witnesses reported air strikes and fighting in Gaza City further north.

Israeli and Hamas negotiating teams left Cairo Thursday after what the Egyptian hosts described as a "two-day round" of indirect negotiations on the terms of a Gaza truce, according to Egyptian intelligence-linked Al-Qahera News.

Hamas said its delegation had left for Qatar, home to the Palestinian militant group's political leadership.

"The negotiating delegation left Cairo heading to Doha. In practice, the occupation (Israel) rejected the proposal submitted by the mediators and raised objections to it on several central issues," Hamas said in a message to other Palestinian factions, adding it stood by the proposal.

"Accordingly, the ball is now completely in the hands of the occupation."

Hamas had said Monday that it had accepted a ceasefire proposal put forward by mediators.

The deal, the group said, involved a withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, the return of Palestinians displaced by the war, and the exchange of hostages held by militants for Palestinian prisoners detained in Israel, with the aim of a "permanent ceasefire".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office at the time called the proposal "far from Israel's essential demands", but said the government would still send negotiators to Cairo.

Israel has long resisted the idea of a permanent ceasefire, insisting it must finish the job of dismantling Hamas.


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