Egypt Independent

Gaza death toll hits 87 as truce efforts intensify

Airstrikes killed 10 Palestinians Monday, raising the toll to 87, as Israel pushed raids

against Gaza militants into a sixth day amid a flurry of efforts to broker a truce.

The latest deaths, which medics and Palestinian security officials said occurred right across the Gaza Strip, came after a night of airstrikes and sustained fire from navy ships, which also leveled a police station.

As the violence escalated, international efforts to broker a cease-fire gathered pace, with senior Hamas officials in Cairo saying Egyptian-mediated talks Sunday with Israel were "positive" but now focused on the need to guarantee the terms of any truce.

Palestinians protest Gaza airstrikes

Egypt, led by President Mohamed Morsy, has been pressed to exert its influence on Gaza's Hamas rulers to restore calm.

Morsy's office said that the president had met with both Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad chief Abdallah Shalah to discuss "Egyptian efforts to end the aggression."

United Nations leader Ban Ki-moon urged Israel and Hamas to work with Egypt to reach a cease-fire, and in a statement said he was heading for the region to support truce efforts.

His office did not say when he would arrive, but Israel's foreign ministry said it was expecting him Wednesday, with the Palestinians also confirming he would meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at some point.

Israeli soldiers watch West Bank protests

Palestinian officials said it was possible a deal would be reached as early as Monday, despite warnings by Israel it was gearing up to expand its operation, which until now has been predominantly an air campaign, into ground offensive.

Analysts say Israel's leadership appears satisfied with the success of Operation Pillar of Defense, which it launched Wednesday aimed at halting Palestinian rocket fire, and that could it be ready for a cease-fire.

But Hamas, emboldened by Arab support, has demanded as conditions for a cease-fire that Israel lift its siege of Gaza, in place since 2006, and international guarantees that it will halt attacks on Gaza, including assassinations of the movement's leaders.

The latest operation against the Gaza Strip began with the targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed al-Jabari in an airstrike in Gaza City Wednesday.

Among those killed Monday were three farmers killed in two separate airstrikes, as well as three members of the same family who died in a strike on a car in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza, Palestinian officials said.

Palestinians gather around home destroyed in airstrike

In Gaza City, two women and a child were among four killed in a strike on the Zeitoun neighborhood.

Monday's deaths came after multiple raids on Sunday that killed 29, in the bloodiest day of Israel's bombing campaign. Three Israelis have been killed and more than 50 injured by rocket fire since Wednesday.

By far the deadliest strike on Sunday was in northern Gaza City where a missile leveled a three-story building, killing nine members of the Dallu family — five of them children — and two of their neighbors, medics said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that Israel was ready to "significantly expand" its operation, as public radio reported that 40,000 reservists were amassed near the Gaza border, ready for a ground incursion.

US President Barack Obama said it was "preferable" for the Gaza crisis to be resolved without a "ramping up" of Israeli military activity, while French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said his country was willing to help broker a truce.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said "a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation."

Gaza airstrikes infographic