Three days of intense, if indirect, negotiations failed to achieve the hoped-for breakthrough that might have produced a durable truce to end the conflict, which has cost more than 1,900 Palestinian lives and caused the deaths of 66 Israelis, the large majority of them soldiers.
But after Egyptian attempts to prolong the ceasefire to allow time for further talks went to the wire, Palestinians and Israeli negotiators were said to have agreed to extend the truce beyond midnight local time tonight.
There were conflicting reports that the truce would be extended by three days and five days, and it was not immediately possible to reconcile the different timescales.
Azzam al-Ahmad, head of the Palestinian delegation, said the ceasefire was meant to ensure a “positive atmosphere”, while noting there had been “lots of progress”.
A Hamas official had said earlier that the parties had “finished talks today without [a permanent] agreement”, saying “more work needs to be done to have a better deal”.
While Egyptian and Palestinian officials said the ceasefire had been extended, Israel had not commented specifically on the supposed deal. And there was an unconfirmed report that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had ordered the military to retaliate after at least three rockets were fired into southern Israel without causing any casualties.
Another rocket killed a child and wounded two others in Egypt near the border with Gaza, officials said. A 13-year-old girl, Sara Salama, was killed and her eight-year-old brother Khaled and sister Rahaf, 2, were seriously hurt in the Egyptian town of el-Mattallah, close to the Palestinian border town of Rafah, security and medical sources said.
A spokesman for the Hamas movement, which is in power in Gaza, denied that it had fired any rockets.
Earlier, amid reports that Israel was sending more troops to reinforce the border, Israel’s Major General Nitzan Alon said: “It is not clear what happens next, but one thing is clear: that the Israeli Defence Forces is vigilant and prepared to fight any enemy that will hurt Israeli citizens and threaten their safety.”