Wednesday, June 16, 2021
HomeWorldCrunch time for Gaza truce talks as death toll passes 800

Crunch time for Gaza truce talks as death toll passes 800

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pressed regional proxies to nail down a Gaza ceasefire on Friday as the civilian death toll soared, threatening to spread Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed to the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem.

With Israel and Islamist Hamas setting seemingly irreconcilable terms for a truce that mediators hope will begin by a major Muslim festival next week, Kerry worked the phones from Egypt while aides made clear his patience was limited.

The urgency was spurred on Thursday by the killing of 15 people sheltering at a U.N.-run school in the northern Gaza Strip, which local officials blamed on Israeli shelling.

Israel said its forces had come under attack from Palestinian militants in the area of the school and that they had shot back. It accused Hamas of preventing any evacuation.

An Israeli air strike on Friday killed the top spokesman for armed faction Islamic Jihad, a Hamas ally, along with his son, Gaza officials said, bringing the mostly civilian Palestinian death toll to 804.

In the occupied West Bank, where U.S.-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas governs in uneasy coordination with Israel, some 10,000 demonstrators marched in solidarity with Gaza overnight – a scale recalling mass revolts of the past.

Protesters surged against an Israeli army checkpoint, throwing rocks and Molotov cocktails, and Palestinian medics said one was shot dead and 200 wounded when troops opened fire.

On Friday, Israeli forces went on high alert for flare-ups at a Jerusalem mosque compound during prayers marking the final stretch of the Ramadan Muslim holy month.

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