Middle East

Gaza: Eight die in Israeli strikes as 'new truce floated'

A man and a child walk past a house damaged by an Israeli air strike in Beit Lahiya, Gaza (25 August 2014)
Image caption At least 17,000 homes in Gaza have been totally destroyed or severely damaged in the fighting

The Israeli military has carried out a new round of air strikes in Gaza, as Palestinian militants continue to fire rockets and mortars into Israel.

Eight people were killed as mosques, homes and a border crossing were targeted, Palestinian officials said.

Meanwhile, efforts have been stepped up to end the six weeks of fighting that have left more than 2,100 people dead.

Egyptian mediators have reportedly proposed a new ceasefire deal that would see Gaza's crossings opened.

According to the initiative, aid and reconstruction materials would be allowed in while talks took place to resolve contentious issues that had prevented a long-term truce being agreed, a Palestinian official said.

'May take time'

The Israeli military said it had carried out air strikes on "terror targets" in Gaza early on Monday, including rocket launchers and weapons manufacturing sites.

Two mosques in the north of the coastal territory were destroyed. Israeli officials said militants were using one of the mosques to store weapons and using the other as a meeting point.

Image caption The Israeli military said 135 rockets were fired from Gaza on Sunday
Image caption The departure lounge at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt was damaged by overnight air strike

Four houses in the town of Beit Lahiya were attacked by Israeli aircraft, killing two women and a girl, witnesses and health officials told the Reuters news agency. A member of Hamas, which dominates Gaza, reportedly lived in one of the buildings.

Three men were also killed in an air strike on a car, Palestinian officials said.

Another air strike damaged the departure lounge at the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Separately, the Erez crossing with Israel was re-opened on Monday and then put "on freeze" after mortar fire in the area, Israeli officials said.

The Israeli military said militants in Gaza had fired more than 80 rockets and mortars at Israeli territory on Monday.

Israeli media reports said a woman was lightly injured when a rocket landed in Eshkol Regional Council.

Israel launched Operation Protective Edge on 8 July with the stated aim of ending rocket fire. It was later expanded to include the destruction of tunnels used by militants for cross-border attacks.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday the operation would "continue until its aims are achieved" and warned: "It may take time."

'Disputed points'

But on Monday morning, Egyptian officials were reported to have proposed a new ceasefire and the resumption of indirect talks in Cairo.

Image caption More than a quarter of the population of Gaza has been displaced since early July
Image caption More than 90 Palestinians and one Israeli have been killed since the last ceasefire ended

"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 the AFP news agency.

"We would be willing to accept this, but are waiting for the Israeli response to this proposal," he added.

A spokesman for Hamas, the Islamist movement that dominates Gaza, confirmed that efforts were continuing to reach an agreement, while an Islamic Jihad spokesman said the success of the talks depended on Palestinian demands being met.

Mr Netanyahu's spokesman said Israel's position that it would not negotiate while under fire had "not changed".

The Israeli government called home its representatives from Cairo six days ago after rocket fire from Gaza ended a nine-day ceasefire.

It has been seeking guarantees that Hamas and other factions in Gaza will be disarmed, while the Palestinians were demanding an end to the Israeli and Egyptian blockades, and the establishment of a seaport and airport.

At least 2,122 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Gaza since Operation Protective Edge began, according to the Palestinian health ministry. The Israeli authorities say 64 Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with three Israeli civilians and a Thai national.