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Long-term truce for Gaza near agreement, says Hamas

MATTI FRIEDMAN JERUSALEM An agreement between Hamas and Israel to bring peace to the war-torn Gaza Strip could be announced within days, Hamas officials said, but a cross-border exchange of fire between the sides yesterday further strained an informal ceasefire.

MATTI FRIEDMAN JERUSALEM

An agreement between Hamas and Israel to bring peace to the war-torn Gaza Strip could be announced within days, Hamas officials said, but a cross-border exchange of fire between the sides yesterday further strained an informal ceasefire.

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Two rockets and a mortar shell fell in southern Israel, the Israeli military said.

No-one was injured, and no Palestinian group took responsibility for the attacks.

Hours later, Palestinian security officials said, an Israeli air strike killed a man and critically wounded another near the Gaza town of Khan Younis. The dead man was a member of the small, violent Popular Resistance Committees group.

The Israeli military, confirming the strike, said the men were planning an attack into Israel.

The Khan Younis strike was followed by air attacks on what the military said were six weapons-smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. The military said "secondary explosions" were observed at some of the sites, a phrase used to indicate that arms or explosives were stored there. A spokesman said the strikes were in response to the earlier Palestinian attacks.

In the West Bank city of Hebron, staff at a local hospital said a teenage boy was killed by Israeli army fire during a clash between troops and stone-throwing Palestinian youths.

Doctors at Alia hospital named the dead boy as Izzadine Jamal, 14. They did not know if he was among those attacking the Israelis.

The army said dozens of Palestinians hurled stones at a military guard tower next to an Israeli settlement and a soldier shot the ringleader.

Rocket fire and shootings along the Gaza-Israel border have persisted since the end of Israel's offensive against Hamas. Yesterday's exchanges came as Hamas officials said talks in Cairo aimed at achieving a long-term truce were close to success.- AP

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