Gaza/Cairo/Jerusalem, Aug 2 IANS | 4 months ago

Israel Saturday said it was not seeking any agreement over the Gaza conflict any more to bring an end to its offensive that has killed 1,664 Palestinians so far, even as efforts gained ground on reaching truce in Gaza, with Egypt hosting Palestinian groups, including Hamas, for ceasefire talks.

Israel said it will not attend the Gaza ceasefire talks in Cairo as planned, as "there is no point" in trying to achieve an agreement with the Hamas movement, Xinhua reported citing Israel's Ha'aretz daily as saying Saturday.

"There's no point in promoting an agreement," the report quoted an Israeli official as saying.

The official said Israel considers ending the offensive on Gaza once "deterrence is restored".

Meanwhile, a Palestinian delegation headed to Egypt for talks on a long-term truce to end the fighting in the Gaza Strip that began 26 days ago.

Azzam el-Ahmad, a leader in Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, said the delegation also includes representative of Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements.

"The efforts now will focus on renewing the UN-proposed humanitarian ceasefire for 72 hours," el-Ahmad said.

A US/UN backed 72-hour (three-day) ceasefire collapsed Friday, only two hours after its start, when Israeli ground forces and Palestinian militants engaged in fierce battles that killed more than 100 Palestinians and two Israeli soldiers.

Hamas in a statement Saturday denied its involvement in the alleged abduction of Israeli soldier Hadar Goldin.

Israel accused Hamas for Goldin's kidnapping and said it was done during the clashes in the southern town of Rafah, moments after the truce announcement.

Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing, said the soldier was likely killed in a bombardment.

US President Barack Obama called on Hamas Friday to "unconditionally" release the soldier.

The Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip has claimed the lives of at least 1,664 Palestinians, most of them civilians, and wounded about 8,920 others, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Saturday.

Among Israelis, 63 soldiers and three civilians have been killed.

Earlier Saturday, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said an Egyptian truce plan provided a "real chance" to end the Gaza conflict.

"The Egyptian proposal is the real chance to find a solution to the crisis in Gaza and to end the bloodshed," Xinhua quoted Sisi as saying at a joint conference with visiting Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Also Saturday, seven Palestinians were killed in Israeli strikes across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians, including three children, were killed in an Israeli air strike on a house in Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza Strip, Xinhua quoted Ashraf al-Qedra, the health ministry spokesman in Gaza, as saying.

Al-Qedra said three more Palestinians were killed and 10 others wounded in another Israeli war jets strike on a house in Rafah.

"Death toll on Saturday all over the Gaza Strip reached 56, and more than 400 were wounded," he said.

On Saturday morning, six people from the same family were killed in another Israeli air strike on a house in Rafah.

Witnesses in eastern, southeast and northern Gaza Strip said they saw dozens of Israeli army tanks, armoured vehicles and troops withdrawing back to the borderline area between the coastal enclave and Israel.

The health ministry spokesman added that two-thirds of the dead and wounded were civilians, including women, children and the elderly.

(Posted on 02-08-2014)

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