Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Qandil crossed into Gaza via Rafah at 8 am Friday for a brief three-hour stay meant to bring a pause to the incessant strikes on the enclave and the exchange of fire between Israel and militants based in the strip.
Observers debated whether the visit was meant to convey a show of solidarity with Hamas or a whether it was signaled a fast-paced move to mediate between the two sides and broker a ceasefire. The answer remains unclear as Israel continued to bomb Gaza even while Qandil met Hamas Prime Miniater Ismail Haniyeh.
Accompanied by a number of Egyptian officials, Qandil's convoy was secured by a combination of police and army forces supervised by new Sinai security director Sameeh Beshadi. They visited El-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City and then held a press conference.
"Egypt…will not hesitate to stop the aggression in order to achieve a just and comprehensive peace for a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital," Qandil said.
"I call on the Palestinian people to unite now. People's strength is in their unity. This is the way to achieve victory and the liberation of Palestine," he added.
Qandil kissed the body of Mohamed Qasim, a child who was killed in an Israeli airstrike. "This cannot be tolerated. I call upon the world to bear this responsibility and on Israel to respect its commitments," he said.
Qandil left before Friday prayers even though the plan was for him to pray in Gaza.
Most people who crossed through the opened Rafah border on Friday were heading into Gaza despite the incessant air strikes which could be heard clearly from the Egyptian side of the boarder.
Sameeh El-Mekawy, 50, was in Cairo for two weeks seeking medical treatment for his wife. He returned to Gaza as scheduled, and says of the violence, "We are used to living with this. Yesterday, shells dropped beside our house where our sons lives. …There is no security in Gaza."
Mohamed Ismail, a Palestinian teacher who work in the UAE, was headed to Gaza to see his family despite the volatile atmosphere. "We are used to Israel's bombing, but the difference this time is Egypt's position," he said.
In the Egyptian Rafah city, residents were concerned about the worsening security situation as well as the shortage of gas supplies due to the smuggling tunnels, one of the vital ways to supply goods to the beseiged Strip.
Mohamed Abdul Hamid, employee in the Ministry of Religious Endowments, moved to Rafah in 1993 from Menufiya. He says before the 25 January revolution, Rafah and Sinai were safer, but "now we can't leave women and our children alone, we hear about kidnappings everyday."
He blamed the Sinai Bedouins for exclusively profiting from the tunnels busness due to their ties with Hamas, pointing out a collapsed house in front of the cafe where he sat which used to hide three tunnels.
The number of Palestinians killed in Gaza as a result of Israeli military raids has now reached 24, including six who have been killed so far on Friday, said Palestinian sources.
The Palestinian news agency WAFA reported that 260 have been injured in Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense, which was launched Wednesday 14 November.
Six children and two women are amongst the dead, while 70 children and women have been injured.
WAFA described victims of the violence, including an elderly man who was killed and another elderly man who was critically wounded in the Zaytoun neighborhood east of Gaza City.
At least four others were injured in the course of a raid on the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood north of Gaza City, one of whom is in critical condition, WAFA reported.
The Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, said in a statement on its website that one of its members was killed and two others injured Friday afternoon in an Israeli raid west of the city of Khan Younis, south of Gaza Strip.