By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan GAZA/JERUSALEM (Reuters) - The death toll in Gaza topped 700 on Thursday as Israeli tank fire before dawn killed 16 people in the Hamas-dominated coastal territory, including six members of the same family, Palestinian health officials said. The continued violence defied world efforts to achieve a ceasefire between Israel and the Islamist group Hamas after 17 days of fighting, though some officials voiced optimism that a limited truce may be within reach. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, flying back from Israel to Cairo for more talks with Egyptian mediators, reported some progress in ceasefire talks. "We are continuing to work on it, but it is not set at this point." Israel's security cabinet released no decision after meeting late into the night on a proposed humanitarian truce under which fighting would cease immediately but negotiations for terms for an extended deal would begin only in several days' time.
By Faith Hung TAIPEI (Reuters) - The leaders of rivals China and Taiwan expressed condolences on Thursday for victims of a TransAsia Airways turboprop plane that crashed during a thunderstorm the previous day killing 48 people including two French nationals. The plane, a 70-seat ATR 72, crashed near the runway on the small island of Penghu, west of Taiwan island, with 54 passengers and four crew on board. "Today is a very sad day in the history of Taiwan aviation," Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou said in a statement. "All of Taiwan is grieving." China's president, Xi Jinping, who is on a Latin America tour, felt "deeply grieved" after learning the tragedy has caused heavy casualties, the mainland's State Council Taiwan Affairs Office, said in a statement, according to the Xinhua news agency.