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Israel won't take part in truce talks

Jerusalem (AP) -- Israeli officials say Israel won't participate in indirect cease-fire talks with Hamas and instead plans to scale back its 26-day-old military operation in Gaza on its own terms.

Cabinet minister Yuval Steinitz said Israel won't send a delegation to proposed truce talks in Cairo. Speaking to Israel's Channel 10 television station, he alleged that Hamas has repeatedly violated previous cease-fire deals and that this "leads us to the conclusion that with this organization there is no point speaking" about any deal.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official told The Associated Press that troops will remain in Gaza to wrap up the demolition of Hamas military tunnels under the Gaza-Israel border, but that this is a matter of "not much more time." The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to discuss internal government deliberations with reporters.

Israeli media reported that 31 tunnels have already been demolished, and that the mission was close to being complete.

In other signals of a troop redeployment within Gaza, the military told residents of the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya that it would be safe for them to return to their homes. The area had come under heavy tank fire during Israel's ground operation, sending thousands of residents fleeing the area.

 
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