Fate of Gaza truce in balance as toll tops 2,000

The Gaza death toll rose over 2,000 on Monday as the clock ticked towards a midnight deadline and negotiators in Cairo strove to hammer out a decisive end to weeks of bloodshed.

AFP| Last Updated: Aug 18, 2014, 22:42 PM IST

Gaza City: The Gaza death toll rose over 2,000 on Monday as the clock ticked towards a midnight deadline and negotiators in Cairo strove to hammer out a decisive end to weeks of bloodshed.

As millions in and around Gaza enjoyed an eighth day of calm brought on by two back-to-back truce agreements, tensions were once again on the rise ahead of a new deadline ending a five-day ceasefire which expires at midnight.

But there was little sign of any workable consensus emerging from ongoing talks between Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Cairo.

The warring parties have just hours left to either reach an agreement, accept a further extension or risk a resumption of the fighting which has wreaked destruction across the densely-populated Mediterranean coastal enclave.

The aim is to broker a long-term arrangement to halt over a month of bloody fighting which erupted on July 8 although both sides have largely lowered their guns since August 4.

Ahead of the deadline, Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was travelling to Doha today for talks with exiled Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Qatari emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Qatar is a key backer of Hamas, the de facto rulers of Gaza.

As diplomatic efforts intensified, Gaza`s health ministry said the death toll from the fighting rose above 2,000 as more people succumbed to injuries. The figures showed 2,016 people had been killed and another 10,196 wounded.

Among the dead were 541 children, 250 women and 95 elderly men.

Separately, the Israeli army confirmed that five of 64 soldiers killed in combat had died as a result of "friendly fire".

Despite the concern over the looming deadline, the streets of Gaza City were relatively full, bustling with women and children shopping for food, as men sat outside in the shade, chatting or watching the world go by.

Elderly people could be seen hitching a ride on a donkey cart, as pedestrians picked their way past piles of rubbish and debris from the war.

With the negotiations in their final stretch, meetings at the Egyptian intelligence headquarters resumed today, but there was little indication that either side was willing to back down on its demands.

"The fifth day of the ceasefire and the negotiations between the resistance and the Zionist enemy ends today," Hamas`s exiled deputy leader Mussa Abu Marzuk wrote on his Facebook page shortly before the talks began.

"No positive results until now. Everything will be decided on the ground."