By Nidal al-Mughrabi
GAZA, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Israeli air strikes killed at least five Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and militants kept up their rocket fire on southern Israel on Monday, witnesses and officials said, as Egypt pressed on with efforts to broker a durable truce.
Gazans said they received new recorded messages on mobile phones and landlines saying Israel would target any house used to launch "terror attacks" and telling civilians to leave areas used my militants.
Israeli aircraft attacked four homes in the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, near the Israeli border, killing two women and a girl, witnesses and health officials said.
Locals told Reuters a member of the Hamas militant group that dominates Gaza lived in one of the dwellings. Separate attacks elsewhere in the Gaza Strip killed two other Palestinians, said officials.
Militants launched about 40 rockets at southern Israel on Monday, causing no casualties, the army said.
Palestinian health officials say 2,119 people, most of them civilians including more than 400 children, have been killed in Gaza since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four civilians in Israel have been killed.
Gazans said they had received messages on their phones for several days, with a new recording on Monday ending with the words: "To Hamas leaders and to the residents of Gaza: The battle is open and you have been warned."
INDEFINITE CEASEFIRE PROPOSED
Qais Abu Leila, a senior Palestinian official involved in Egyptian-mediated talks to reach a truce in seven weeks of fighting, said Cairo had proposed an indefinite ceasefire.
Cairo's latest initiative calls for the immediate opening of Gaza's crossings with Israel and Egypt to aid reconstruction efforts in the battered coastal strip to be followed by talks on a longer-term easing of the blockade.
"Egyptian efforts are continuing. The ball is in the Israeli court, and they have not responded to this proposal 36 hours after it was referred to them," Abu Leila told Reuters.
Hamas has said it will not stop fighting until the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the enclave of 1.8 million people is lifted.
Both Israel and Egypt view Hamas as a security threat and are demanding guarantees that weapons will not enter the economically-crippled territory. Israel recalled its negotiators from Cairo on Tuesday after a ceasefire collapsed.
In Gaza City on Sunday, an Israeli strike on a car killed Mohammed al-Ghoul, described by the Israeli military as a Hamas official responsible for "terror fund transactions". U.S. dollars were found in the wrecked vehicle, witnesses said.
Israel later bombed and destroyed Ghoul's house. He was targeted three days after Israel assassinated three top Hamas commanders in the southern Gaza Strip.
Thousands of homes in the Gaza Strip have been destroyed or damaged in the conflict. Nearly 500,000 people have been displaced in the territory where Palestinians, citing Israeli attacks that have hit schools and mosques, say no place is safe.
Israel has said Hamas bears responsibility for civilian casualties because it operates among non-combatants. The group, it said, uses schools and mosques to store weapons and as launching sites for cross-border rocket attacks. (Additional reporting by Ali Sawafta and Noah Browning in Ramallah; Writing by Jeffrey Heller in Jerusalem; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
BEFORE YOU GO
08/26/2014 12:41 PM EDT
VIDEO: Gazans Celebrate
CNN reporter Ian Lee posted this video on his Instagram account of Gazans celebrating the cease-fire deal.
08/26/2014 12:36 PM EDT
Report: No Deal On Seaport, Airport
According to BBC producer Michael Shuval, an Israeli official said Hamas' demands for the opening of a seaport and airport in Gaza are not part of the Egypt-brokered deal both factions agreed to on Tuesday, but will be discussed in further talks within a month.
Israeli official: CF doesn't include Hamas demands on port, airport, prisoners & funds. Sides will discuss those via Egypt within a month.— Michael Shuval (@MichaelShuval) August 26, 2014
08/26/2014 12:29 PM EDT
Officials: Israel To Ease Gaza Blockade As Part Of Cease-fire
An Israeli official told the Associated Press that Israel will ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip as part of an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire deal. The agreement will enable the passage of humanitarian aid and construction material to rebuild the war-torn territory, according to the report.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian official told Buzzfeed that the terms of the deal were similar to those reached after the last major conflict between Israel and Hamas in 2012. That year, Israel pledged to ease restrictions at Gaza's border in exchange for a cessation of rocket fire from Hamas militants.
-- Charlotte Alfred
08/26/2014 12:20 PM EDT
08/26/2014 12:16 PM EDT
Barrage Of Rockets
According to several reporters in Israel, Palestinian militants have fired a barrage of rockets at Israel moments before the start of a long-term ceasefire.
Sirens warning of rocket attacks sound in southern Israel after Gaza ceasefire was due to take effect— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) August 26, 2014
Heavy rocket fire continuing on Gaza border areas 5 minutes after Hamas says ceasefire in effect.— Daniel Nisman (@DannyNis) August 26, 2014
08/26/2014 12:10 PM EDT
More On The Israeli Position
Via the Associated Press:
JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli official says Israel has accepted an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire plan to end a seven-week war against Islamic militants in the Gaza Strip.
The official said Tuesday that Israel "responded positively" to Egypt's call for an open-ended cease-fire.
Egyptian state media reported the cease-fire was to begin at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT).
The Israeli official said Israel would ease its blockade of Gaza to allow humanitarian and construction materials to enter the war-battered territory.
He said indirect talks on more substantial issues would begin in Cairo within a month. Issues are expected to include Hamas' demand for an end to the blockade and Israel's calls for Hamas to disarm.
The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the issue with journalists.
08/26/2014 11:49 AM EDT
Haaretz: Israel Accepts Truce
A senior Israeli official told Haaretz that Israel has accepted the Egyptian-proposed truce. The official added that members of Israel's cabinet had been notified.
Read more here.
08/26/2014 11:44 AM EDT
More On The Egyptian Announcement
CAIRO (AP) — Egyptian state media has announced a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel to halt the seven-week Gaza war, which has killed over 2,200 people.
Both Egyptian state television and the state news agency MENA announced the deal Tuesday night. Both said it begins at 7 p.m. local time (1600 GMT), without elaborating.
Earlier, officials with from Hamas and Islamic Jihad, the main groups fighting in Gaza against Israel, said a cease-fire had been reached. Israeli officials have not immediately commented. They described it as an "open-ended" cease-fire that included an Israeli agreement to ease its blockade of Gaza to allow relief supplies and construction materials into the war-battered territory.
Israeli officials have yet to comment.
08/26/2014 11:34 AM EDT
Egyptian State TV: Cease-Fire Reached
Egypt state TV reports as well that a cease-fire was reached between Hamas and Israel, the Associated Press writes.
08/26/2014 11:22 AM EDT
Reports: 3 Israelis Seriously Wounded
Reporter Ben Hartman writes on Twitter that reports have emerged that 3 Israelis were seriously wounded in an attack from Gaza.