Gaza City, Gaza Strip Israeli troops pressing ahead with a Gaza border town offensive killed seven Hamas militants and a girl Saturday as negotiators reported progress on forming a Palestinian government they hoped would thaw a freeze on international aid.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appealed for U.N. Security Council intervention to stop the Israeli military operation involving rockets being fired from the town of Beit Hanoun, where violence since Wednesday has led to the deaths of more than 40 Palestinians.
Abbas "asks the members of the council to move quickly and discuss the tragic situation in the Palestinian territories caused by the Israeli aggression," his spokesman, Nabil Abu Rdeineh, said in a statement.
Despite the fighting, Palestinian negotiators said they were nearing agreement on forming a new government they hope will be acceptable to the West and end an international freeze on aid to the Palestinian Authority. The Hamas government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh is shunned by the international community for refusing to recognize Israel and renounce violence.
Officials close to Abbas and Haniyeh said progress is being made on a Hamas proposal to set up a government of experts who have some ties to Hamas and Abbas' Fatah movement. As part of the agreement, the new prime minister would have Hamas ties, according to the officials.
The new government's program - the key sticking point in the past - intentionally would be vague, including a possible recognition of Israel, the officials said. Hamas leaders are to make a decision today on whether to present it as the official offer.
Negotiations have broken down repeatedly in the past and Ahmed Yousef, a key adviser to Haniyeh, said in London that the new government's guidelines would not include recognition of Israel, renunciation of violence or endorsement of past peace accords.
In ongoing violence, 44 Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday during the military campaign in the town of Beit Hanoun, on Gaza's border with Israel. More than 200 people have been wounded in the sweep so far.