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Gaza truce talks in Cairo as heavy fighting rages

A Palestinian man reads a book in a Gaza City street damaged by Israeli bombardment
— Gaza Strip (Palestinian Territories) (AFP)

Mediators in Cairo made a renewed push for a Gaza ceasefire, but differences remained as fighting raged on Sunday between Israeli forces and Hamas militants in the Palestinian territory gripped by desperate food shortages.

Witnesses told AFP that an Israeli strike hit an aid truck in central Gaza, killing several people, but the military denied the truck carried relief.

Envoys from the United States, Qatar and Hamas arrived in Cairo, Egyptian state-linked media reported Sunday, the latest effort towards a six-week truce, stepped-up aid deliveries and the exchange of hostages for Palestinian prisoners.

Rania Abu Anza, the mother of twin babies Naeem and Wissam, killed in an Israeli air strike, mourns their death ahead of their burial in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip

But sticking points remained, including a Hamas demand that Israeli forces entirely withdraw from the Gaza Strip after almost five months of devastating war.

And Israel, which has so far announced no plans to join the Egypt talks, has demanded Hamas provide it with a list of all 130 remaining captives, including more than 30 who are feared dead.

Despite the latest push to halt the fighting sparked by Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel, there was no letup in Israeli bombing and urban combat in Gaza.

Late Sunday an AFP correspondent reported several air strikes in southern Gaza's Rafah and Khan Yunis.

Earlier, 90 Palestinians were killed within 24 hours, said the Hamas-ruled territory's health ministry, which put the war's overall death toll at 30,410, mostly women and children.

The Gaza health ministry says 14 members of the Abu Anza family were killed in overnight bombardment in Rafah

Two of the latest victims, twin babies Naeem and Wissam Abu Anza, were buried on Sunday as their mother Rania wept in agony, an AFP photographer said.

A relative, Shehda Abu Anza, said "only civilians" were in the house when it was bombed, killing 14 members of one family.

"All of them were sleeping when suddenly a missile hit and destroyed the whole house," he told AFP as residents searched the rubble with their bare hands -- for bodies but also to salvage scarce food.

- Food airdrops -

An Israeli siege on Gaza has sparked UN warnings of famine, and France's foreign ministry said Israel is "clearly responsible" for aid blockages.

On Saturday the United States started airdropping food rations. Jordan and some other countries have already done so.

At the edge of a seaside road in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, men examined the remains of a truck they said had been carrying aid.

"It was hit by a drone with one missile," turning several people "into pieces", said Haytham al-Quraan. "They were delivering aid to the south. Then it was hit again by a second missile."

The Palestinian Red Crescent said crews "transferred five martyrs" and four injured "due to targeting a truck by an Israeli drone".

Deaths at aid delivery site in the northern Gaza Strip

Contacted about the incident, the military told AFP: "It was not an aid truck that was struck," but did not elaborate.

At least 16 children have died of malnutrition in recent days as "famine spreads" in Gaza's north, said health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

On Thursday more than 100 people were killed in chaotic scenes around a convoy of aid trucks in Gaza City.

Gaza health officials said Israeli forces opened fire into the crowd, causing a "massacre", while Israel's army said most victims were trampled or hit by trucks in a crush for food aid.

Armed forces spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari said an initial review "has indicated that following the warning shots fired to disperse the stampede... several looters approached our forces and posed an immediate threat to them".

- 'Alarming' -

Troops then fired "towards several individuals", Hagari said. He added that an "independent" army body would launch an investigation.

Numerous world leaders have called for a probe.

An anti-government demonstration in Tel Aviv

A UN team that visited some of the wounded in Gaza City's Al-Shifa Hospital on Friday saw a "large number of gunshot wounds", said UN chief Antonio Guterres's spokesman Stephane Dujarric.

The UN Security Council voiced concern over Gaza's "alarming levels of acute food insecurity", and urged "the immediate, rapid, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale".

Pope Francis called for Gaza civilians to be given "safe access to the humanitarian aid they urgently need".

The war broke out on October 7 with an unprecedented Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.

A Palestinian vendor in Gaza City, as the UN warns of famine

Israel's military on Sunday announced the death of one more soldier in Gaza, bringing to 246 the number killed in ground operations.

In Rehovot, Israel, there were tears and ceremonial gunshots at the funeral of another soldier, Afik Teri.

The Hamas government media office reported intense tank shelling in northern Gaza, and the Israeli military said it hit about 50 targets including "underground terrorist infrastructure".

- Truce talks -

Mediators have been scrambling to lock in a truce before Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month that begins in around one week.

Washington regards Hamas as a "terrorist" organisation, and in previous talks Egyptian officials have acted as intermediaries. A US official, speaking to reporters late Saturday, had said "there's a framework deal" for a ceasefire which could start "today if Hamas agrees to release" elderly, women and ill hostages.

An Israeli armoured vehicle moves along the border with the Gaza Strip

"The Israelis have more or less accepted it," the administration official said.

A Hamas official said that if Israel were to meet its demands, this would "pave the way for an agreement within the next 24-48 hours".

Osama Hamdan, a Lebanon-based Hamas official, told Qatar's Al-Araby TV that the group insisted on a complete, rather than "temporary", ceasefire and on "ending the aggression against our people".

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has so far rejected pulling troops out of Gaza before Hamas is destroyed and all hostages are freed.

The Hamas official also said the group would demand "the entry of at least 400 to 500 trucks per day" carrying food, medicine and fuel.

Netanyahu has faced mounting calls to secure the release of the hostages, from their desperate families and from a resurgent anti-government protest movement.