CAIRO (AP) -- An Egyptian effort to broker an end to a monthlong war between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip appeared to collapse Tuesday after Israel walked out on the talks in response to a barrage of Palestinian rocket fire.<br />
The Israeli walkout occurred just hours before a midnight deadline, leaving the fate of the negotiations in question and raising the possibility of a resumption of heavy fighting.<br />
"The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities," Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said. "When Hamas breaks the cease-fire, they also break the premise for the Cairo talks. Accordingly, the Israeli team has been called back as a result of today's rocket fire."<br />
He would not say whether the team would return to Cairo, or whether Israel would resume cease-fire talks. There was no immediate Egyptian comment, but a Hamas official declared the talks over.<br />
The breakdown dealt a harsh blow to nearly a week of Egyptian-led diplomacy meant to end weeks of fighting that has killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, most of them civilians, according to Palestinian and U.N. officials. Sixty-seven Israelis, including three Israelis, have also been killed. It has been the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas since the Islamic militant group seized control of Gaza in 2007.<br />
Hamas is seeking an end to a seven-year Israeli-Egypt blockade that has ravaged Gaza's economy, while Israel wants guarantees that Hamas will disarm.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
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