BEIT LAHIYA, Gaza Strip – An Israeli envoy engaging in Gaza cease-fire talks returned without a deal late Thursday, after another day of bloodshed in the coastal territory that included seven Palestinians being killed in a house explosion that Hamas blamed on an accident.
When an explosion flattened a house and killed seven in the Gaza Strip, Hamas blamed Israel and unleashed rockets and mortar shells at southern Israel. But the militant group, which has controlled Gaza the past year, later suggested the blast was accidental.
By then Israel had carried out an airstrike aimed at a Gaza rocket squad, killing a Palestinian. Two other Israeli military operations in Gaza killed five more militants.
Clashes in and around Gaza are putting a strain on Egypt’s effort to arrange a truce by acting as a go-between because Israel has no contacts with Hamas, which has killed more than 250 Israelis in suicide attacks and rejects the Jewish state’s right to exist.
Israeli officials said envoy Amos Gilad told Egyptian mediators in Cairo that Israel wants progress toward freeing a soldier captured by Hamas two years ago as well as a commitment by Egypt to stop arms smuggling across its border with Gaza.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said no agreement was reached Thursday.
With violence rising, Israeli government and security officials said Israel is willing to give Egyptian mediation about two more weeks to produce a truce, but warned that the military will be ready to invade Gaza if the effort fails.
Major points of contention remain, most prominently, Israel’s demand to link the truce deal to the release of the Israeli soldier and a Hamas demand that Israel open Gaza’s border crossings.