Fears for truce talks as Israel pounds Gaza

Gaza City - Palestinian negotiators have warned they will leave Cairo on Sunday if their Israeli counterparts do not show up for truce talks, after Israel pummelled Gaza with fresh air strikes that killed at least 10 Palestinians.

Negotiations for a ceasefire in Gaza are expected to resume in Cairo on Sunday with an Israeli delegation scheduled to arrive in the city, where a Palestinian team and Egyptian mediators are waiting.

But an Israeli official told AFP that talks cannot take place until Palestinian rocket fire comes to a halt. Militants slammed 25 rockets into Israel on Saturday, amid mounting calls for a new ceasefire to halt fighting that has left nearly 2 000 Palestinians dead over the last month along with 67 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.

Rockets fired, air raids

Two more rockets were fired at Israeli territory early on Sunday, while the Israeli air force carried out 17 more raids, an army spokesperson said.

Palestinian negotiators warned they would leave the Egyptian capital if no Israeli delegation showed up, with one senior Palestinian setting a 13:00 GMT deadline.

"We have a meeting tomorrow (Sunday) with Egyptian (mediators). If we confirm that the Israeli delegation is placing conditions for its return, we will not accept any conditions," lead negotiator Azzam al-Ahmed told AFP.

Another senior Palestinian negotiator said they had given the Israeli delegation until 13:00 GMT on Sunday.

Britain, France and Germany on Saturday urged Israel and Hamas - the Islamist movement in de facto control of Gaza - to agree to an immediate ceasefire.

Israel 'stalling'

A Hamas leader, Mussa Abu Marzuq, warned that the next 24 hours would be crucial.

Israel "is stalling and the next 24 hours will decide the fate of the negotiations", he said.

"We will not hold talks for a long time without serious discussions," he added overnight Saturday, calling Israel's attitude "not serious".

"We do not want an escalation, but we will not accept that there is no reply to our demands."

The Cairo talks broke down on Friday after Hamas accused Israel of stalling and refused to extend a 72-hour ceasefire, setting off renewed hostilities that left 10 Palestinians dead on Saturday as Israeli warplanes battered Gaza with 50 air strikes.

The last month's fighting has devastated swathes of Gaza, with the United Nations saying at least 1 354 of the Palestinians killed have been civilians, including 447 children.