The threat of renewed war in Gaza loomed on Wednesday as the clock ticked towards the end of a three-day ceasefire with no sign of a breakthrough in indirect talks in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinians.
Officials in Egypt indicated that the talks were struggling, but said efforts were still being made to reach some sort of a deal before the truce expired at 2100 GMT, including possibly extending the suspension of hostilities by a further 72 hours.
Two hours before the temporary ceasefire was due to end a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip landing inside southern Israel. Hamas Islamists denied launching the missile.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of negotiations in Cairo said Egypt had presented a new proposal for a permanent truce agreement that included a major Palestinian demand for a lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip.
Israel and Egypt harbor deep security concerns about Hamas, the dominant Islamist group in the small, Mediterranean coastal enclave, complicating any deal on easing border restrictions.
It was unclear from the official’s remarks how those worries, along with Israel’s demand for Gaza’s demilitarization, would be dealt with. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said disarming was not an option.