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Sun 10 Aug 2014 11:28 AM

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Update: Renewed fighting jeopardises Gaza ceasefire efforts

Palestinians threaten to quit Cairo talks; Israel has said it will not take part in truce talks while violence is ongoing

Update: Renewed fighting jeopardises Gaza ceasefire efforts

Update (August 10, 12:18pm): Israeli air
strikes and shelling killed three Palestinians in Gaza on Sunday, medics said,
in a third day of renewed fighting that has jeopardised international efforts
to achieve a lasting ceasefire in a more than month-old conflict.

Palestinians kept up rocket and mortar fire that,
since the last truce expired on Friday, has focused on kibbutzim, or collective
farms, just across the border in what appeared to be a strategy of sapping
Israel's morale without triggering another ground invasion of the tiny Gaza

The violence has become less intense than at the
war's outset, down from more than 100 rocket salvoes a day including at major
cities like Tel Aviv, which have not come under attack since Israel withdrew
ground troops from Gaza on Tuesday.

Hamas, Gaza's dominant Islamist movement, and
Israel were remained far apart on terms for any enduring halt to hostilities,
with their rejection of each other's legitimacy adding to the obstacles.

Israel refused to send back officials to
Egyptian-brokered talks in Cairo as long as militant attacks continued. The
leader of the Palestinian delegation, which represents Hamas as well as the
party of US-backed President Mahmoud Abbas, threatened on Saturday to quit the
talks unless Israel reversed that stance.

Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said he saw
"very slim" chances of success in renewing last week's 72-hour

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cabinet
was to address the crisis in its weekly session later on Sunday.

"We are at a crossroads and within two or
three days we will see whether we are heading left toward an agreement, or
right, toward escalation," Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz, a close
ally of Netanyahu, told Channel 10 television on Saturday.

Air strikes and shelling killed three Palestinians,
including a 14-year-old boy and a woman, raising the mostly civilian death toll
given by Palestinian hospital officials to 1,893 since the July 8 launch of
Israel's offensive to quell rocket fire out of the densely populated coastal

Israel has lost 64 soldiers and three civilians to
the war, whose toll on non-combatants in impoverished Gaza has drawn
international alarm and 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.

In renewed fighting since the end of a three-day
truce on Friday, Israel has killed 14 Palestinians in air strikes.

Militants have fired more than 100 projectiles,
mostly short-range rockets and mortar bombs, at Israel. Kibbutzim near Gaza's
border have been the main targets.

Though Israel's Iron Dome rocket interceptor does
not work at such short ranges, there have been few casualties in the kibbutzim,
largely because as many as 80 percent of their 5,000 residents fled before last
week's ceasefire.

Some said on Sunday they would not return to their
communities, which have long been symbols of Israel's pioneering spirit - an
abandonment likely to pile pressure on Netanyahu.

Yossi Wagner, a member of the skeletal security
team at Kibbutz Nahal Oz, doubted Netanyahu's promises to restore quiet.

"I heard the prime minister's various
speeches, but we see the reality of the situation here," Wagner told
Israel's Army Radio. "We have decided that at this stage we are not
recommending that members return to the kibbutz."

The firm that makes Iron Dome, state-owned Rafael
Armament Development Authority Ltd., is working on a version called "Iron
Beam" that would use lasers to shoot down short-range mortars.

Rafael CEO Yedidia Yaari told Israeli television
that he expected more government funding for Iron Beam's development and it was
"very close" to completion. A defence industry source predicted
deployment of the system in a year to 18 months.

Egypt, backed by American and European mediators,
has made no visible progress towards restoring the ceasefire.

On Saturday, the head of the Palestinian
delegation, Azzam Ahmed, said "we will leave Cairo tomorrow if it is
confirmed to us they (Israelis) will not return" unconditionally.

Egypt is meeting separately with each party, given
that Hamas rejects Israel's right to exist and Israel rejects Hamas as a
terrorist organisation.

Hamas demands an end to a blockade of Gaza that
both Israel and Egypt have imposed. Israel has resisted easing access to Gaza,
suspecting Hamas could 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
construct more tunnels of the sort that Palestinian fighters have used to
infiltrate Israel.

Ahead of the truce's expiration on Friday, Israel
said it was ready to agree to an extension. Hamas did not agree.

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