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By Laura King, Batsheva Sobelman, Los Angeles Times

After a shaky start, a new temporary truce in the Gaza Strip appeared to be holding Thursday.

The two sides, which have been holding indirect talks in Cairo, agreed late Wednesday to a five-day cease-fire, according to Palestinian negotiators and the Egyptian government, which is mediating the talks.

If the truce holds for its full duration, until Monday night, it would be the longest cessation of hostilities since fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants erupted on July 8. Israel withdrew its ground forces from Gaza last week, and the conflict has since tapered off, with occasional flare-ups.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who spoke Wednesday by telephone with President Obama, was convening his security Cabinet on Thursday to discuss the status of the ongoing talks. Israel wants Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, to disarm, and Hamas is demanding a lifting of the blockade of the coastal territory and a prisoner release.

As the previous cease-fire was winding down and the new truce taking hold, Israel was hit late Wednesday and early Thursday by a volley of missiles and responded with a series of retaliatory airstrikes. No new casualties were reported on either side.

In Gaza, many people were taking advantage of the relative calm to resume some semblance of normal life. Traffic was flowing and shops were open, although huge areas of devastation remain.

The conflict has killed more than 1,900 Palestinians in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations and human rights groups. Sixty-four Israeli soldiers have died, along with three civilians on the Israeli side.

AFP Photo/Jack Guez

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