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Warring sides in last-gasp ceasefire agreement

By Donald MacIntyre

At least one rocket was fired into Israel and another killed a child and wounded two others in Egypt near the border with Gaza, officials said last night as talks to renew the ceasefire appeared to be faltering.

Israel and Hamas last night agreed to extend a 72-hour ceasefire for another three days to allow more time for Egyptian mediators to bridge the continuing gap between the two sides on a possible agreement to end the 35-day Gaza war.

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 and 66 Israeli lives, the large majority of the latter soldiers.

But after Egyptian attempts to prolong the ceasefire to allow time for further talks went to the wire, both Palestinians and Israeli negotiators agreed to extend it beyond midnight last night.

A Hamas official had said earlier that the parties had "finished talks today without agreement", but suggested there was still hope.

"More work needs to be done to have a better deal," the official said.

"We are deliberating internally over an offer to extend the ceasefire."

At least one rocket was fired into southern Israel, although Hamas denied firing any.

Another killed a child and wounded two others in Egypt near the border with Gaza, officials said last night.

In the Egyptian town of el-Mattallah, a 13-year-old girl, Sara Salama, was killed and her eight-year-old brother Khaled and sister Rahaf (2) were seriously hurt by a rocket, security and medical sources said.

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