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Deadly Gaza raids as Egypt offers new truce plan

Egypt has proposed a new ceasefire in the Gaza conflict that would open key border crossings into the battered Palestinian territory, after Israeli raids killed at least 10 more Palestinians.

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Egypt has proposed a new ceasefire in the Gaza conflict that would open key border crossings into the battered Palestinian territory, after Israeli raids killed at least 10 more Palestinians.

A 17-year-old boy was killed and about 25 people were wounded in a strike on a Gaza City mosque late Monday (Aug 26), UN and medical officials said. At least 10 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since midnight on Sunday, including a three-year-old boy and Abdullah Mortaja, a 27-year-old freelance journalist.

Gaza militants meanwhile bombarded Israel with more than 100 rockets on Monday, according to the Israeli army, with troops shooting 14 down including one in the greater Tel Aviv area. The Jewish state also said it came under fire in the north, with at least one rocket fired from Lebanon.

More than 2,100 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its offensive on July 8, aiming to stamp out rocket fire from Palestinian militants. On the Israeli side 68 have been killed, almost all of them soldiers.

Gaza's religious affairs ministry said Israeli fire destroyed four more mosques on Monday, with more than 70 mosques destroyed in seven weeks of fighting that have reduced swathes of the territory to a rubble.

WAITING FOR ISRAEL

The death toll in Gaza has risen steadily since a truce collapsed on August 19, with hundreds of rockets striking Israeli soil. But a possible new ceasefire agreement would see border crossings opened to allow for the delivery of aid and reconstruction materials, with negotiators returning to Cairo to resume discussions on a longer-term end to the violence.

"There is an idea for a temporary ceasefire that opens the crossings, allows aid and reconstruction material, and the disputed points will be discussed in a month," a senior Palestinian official told AFP in Cairo. "We would be willing to accept this, but are waiting for the Israeli response to this proposal," he said, requesting anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Another Palestinian official said Egypt could invite Palestinian and Israeli negotiating teams to return to Cairo within 48 hours. "Efforts are ongoing to reach an agreement," Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri told AFP, without going into specifics. Daud Shihab, spokesman for Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, confirmed such efforts were under way. "The success of contacts (talks) to reach a ceasefire depends on Palestinian demands being met," he said.

There was no immediate comment from Israel, with Netanyahu's spokesman Mark Regev saying Israel's position - refusing to negotiate until Palestinian militants halt their rocket fire - had not changed. But Israeli Science Minister Yaakov Peri, an observer at the security cabinet and former head of the Shin Bet internal security agency, said if the rocket fire stopped talks would likely resume - although probably not immediately.

"I don't think it will be a matter of a few hours," he told army radio. "I think this time Israel will try to make sure over several more hours or a day that the ceasefire is holding." In a separate interview, he said: "Generally, we will agree to open the crossings," referring to the entry points at Erez and Kerem Shalom.

Regarding Gaza's Rafah crossing with Egypt, "that is a decision for the Egyptians", Peri said. But he added that Israel would support the deployment of Palestinian Authority security personnel at the terminal, hinting at the shape of an initial arrangement. A more comprehensive deal -- with Israel facilitating the reconstruction of Gaza in exchange for its demilitarisation -- was "far off", Peri said.

Hamas, the Islamist movement in de facto control of Gaza, has insisted that any long-term truce must end the eight-year blockade which has crippled the Palestinian enclave, tightly restricting the movement of goods and people. The Palestinians also demand that the coastal territory be allowed to open an airport and seaport.

Previous temporary ceasefires have failed to produce agreement, although back-to-back extensions have given millions of people periods of relief from incessant bombardment and rocket fire.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas on Saturday after Egypt repeatedly urged all parties to accept an open-ended truce and return to the negotiating table in Cairo. Abbas is expected to convene a meeting of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Thursday, a Palestinian official, said without giving further details.