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Indirect Israel-Hamas talks on Gaza start in Cairo


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Rafah is closed to commercial traffic and only individuals are permitted to cross, but Egypt has sharply restricted travel of Gaza residents over the past year and waiting lists have grown.

Shukri, the Egyptian foreign minister, said the talks were giving priority to the Israeli-controlled crossings and how to operate them to "meet the demands of the Palestinian people."

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The current round of confrontations began with the June 12 abduction and killing of three Israeli teens in the West Bank, which Israel blamed on Hamas and rounded up hundreds of its activists, a move followed by barrages of Gaza rocket fire on Israel.

Israel launched airstrikes on July 8 that it said were aimed at stopping the rocket fire, and expanded the operation on July 17 by sending in ground forces to destroy a network of tunnels used to stage attacks.

On Wednesday, Israel’s Justice Ministry announced the arrest of Hussam al-Qawasmi, the suspected mastermind behind the killing of the Israeli teens. He allegedly led a three-man cell affiliated with Hamas, though the militant group has not claimed any connection to the teens’ abduction and killings.

In Gaza, residents took advantage of the calm to return to their devastated homes and inspect the damage.

People made their way over buckled roads, through dangling power lines and overturned trees to inspect their neighborhoods. Along the way, rows of flattened buildings alternated with moderately damaged structures — and the rare unscathed building.

Utility crews were working frantically to repair downed electricity and telephone lines. Gaza’s only power plant was shut down after it was badly damaged by an Israeli attack and repairs are expected to take months, leaving the densely populated strip with only two to three hours of electricity a day, via Egypt and Israel.

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Associated Press writers Karin Laub and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City, Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Peter Enav, Joe Federman and Ian Deitch in Jerusalem contributed to this report.


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