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Temporary truce extended

Egyptian mediators raced Wednesday to pin down a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas to prevent more fighting in the Gaza war, as Hamas said it agreed to extend a temporary truce that was set to expire at midnight.

The two sides were considering an Egyptian proposal that partially addresses their demands, but deep differences have kept the deal in doubt. Two hours before the cease-fire's end, Israeli police said a rocket landed in southern Israel, though it hit an open area and caused no damage.

Hamas denied responsibility for the attack, and Izzat al-Rishq, a senior member of the group, said it agreed to extend the temporary truce for another 72 hours, allowing the sides more time to negotiate a longer-term deal.

There was no immediate comment from Israeli officials.

During the temporary cease-fire, Israel halted military operations in the war-battered coastal territory and Gaza militants stopped firing rockets, save for the one late Wednesday.

Earlier, a Hamas official said more time was needed to secure a longer-term deal to halt the fighting.

"We have finished talks today without agreement. More work needs to be done to have a better deal," a Hamas official said.

The official said there remained disagreements over amendments to the Egyptian proposal requested by Hamas. The Islamic militant group wants to clarify phrasing on certain points, including reconstruction efforts for Gaza and the movement of individuals and goods, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the talks with journalists.

A spokesman for Israel's prime minister declined to comment.

A cease-fire extension would grant both sides additional time to negotiate a more sustainable truce and a roadmap for the coastal territory.

Hamas is seeking an end to a crippling blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007. The blockade has greatly limited the movement of Palestinians in and out of the territory of 1.8 million people. It has also restricted the flow of goods into Gaza and blocked virtually all exports.

Israel says the closure is necessary to prevent arms smuggling, and officials are reluctant to make any concessions that would allow Hamas to declare victory.

Israel wants Hamas to disarm, or at least be prevented from re-arming. Hamas has recovered from previous rounds of violence with Israel, including a major three-week ground operation in January 2009 and another weeklong air offensive in 2012. It now controls an arsenal of thousands of rockets, some with long ranges and powerful. Gaza militants fired more than 3,000 rockets toward Israel during the war.

Neither side is likely to see all of its demands met, but the Egyptian proposal tabled Tuesday offered some solutions. A member of the Palestinian delegation at the Cairo talks said the proposal calls for easing parts of the Israeli blockade of Gaza, bringing some relief to the territory.

The war began on July 8 with Israel's air campaign against Gaza's Hamas rulers, whom Israel blamed for the kidnapping and murder in June of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank. Nine days later, Israel sent in ground troops to destroy Hamas' underground cross-border tunnels constructed for attacks inside Israel.

The fighting has so far killed more than 1,900 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians, Palestinian and U.N. officials say. On the Israeli side, 67 people have died, all but three of them soldiers.

The Canadian Press

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