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Israel, Palestinians Again Extend Gaza Cease-Fire

FILE - Palestinian children sit atop the remains of their house, which witnesses said was destroyed in the Israeli offensive, during a 72-hour truce in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip.

Israel and the Palestinians have agreed to extend a cease-fire in the Gaza Strip for another 24 hours, as they meet in Cairo to try to agree on a lasting truce.

The announcement of the extension Monday came just before the current cease-fire was set to expire at midnight local time. There was no indication that negotiators are close to reaching a deal to stop more than a month of fighting between the Jewish state and Hamas, which runs the coastal enclave along the Mediterranean.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the Israeli army is ready to respond with force if Hamas resumes firing rockets at Israel, as it did when the first cease-fire was about to expire more than a week ago.

Egyptian mediators have been conducting indirect negotiations, carrying truce proposals back and forth between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Israel has refused direct talks because the Palestinian delegation includes Hamas, which it considers a terrorist group.

The gap between Israel and the Palestinians remains wide, with Israel demanding the disarming of Hamas and an end to its cross-border rocket attacks. The Palestinians are calling for the end of Israel's eight-year blockade of impoverished Gaza.

The five weeks of fighting has left more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them Gaza civilians, and 67 Israelis soldiers dead. It has also left Gaza neighborhoods in rubble from Israeli airstrikes. Norway announced that once a lasting truce is reached, it would host a conference with Egypt to look for international donors to rebuild Gaza.

While the cease-fire negotiations continued, Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians suspected in the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teens in June, which helped sparked the Gaza warfare.

The army said it demolished the homes Monday and sealed off the home of a third suspect.

One of the men, Hussam Kawasma, was taken into custody in July, while the other two remain at large.