Air strike kills 11 Palestinians
At least 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children, were killed today by what Hamas said was an Israeli air strike on a Gaza apartment building - the highest death toll in a single incident in five days of violence.
Israel gave off signs of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run enclave as the next stage in its air and sea offensive, billed as a bid to stop Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state, while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.
US president Barack Obama said while Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket salvoes, it would be "preferable" to avoid a military thrust into the Gaza Strip, a narrow, densely populated coastal territory. Such an assault would risk high casualties and an prompt an international outcry.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said an Israeli missile wrecked the three-storey residential building, killing 11 people, all of them civilians. Medics said four women and four children were among the dead.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment. Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in the military showdown with Hamas.
"The massacre of the Dalu family will not pass without punishment," Hamas's armed wing said in a statement.
For their part, Gaza militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day. The Jewish state's "Iron Dome" missile shield shot down two of the rockets fired toward Tel Aviv, Israel's biggest city, but falling debris from the interception hit a car, which caught fire. Its driver was not hurt.
In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter incursion into Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border. Military convoys moved on roads in the area newly closed to civilian traffic.
Mr Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive. "We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations, and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," he said at a cabinet meeting.
Gaza health official Mufid al-Miklalati said 65 Palestinians - around half of them women and children - have been killed in Gaza since the latest round of violence began, with hundreds wounded.
Rockets fired from Gaza into Israel since Wednesday have killed three civilians and wounded dozens.
Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and force the Islamist Hamas to stop rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border towns for years and is now displaying greater range, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the crosshairs.
Israel withdrew settlers from Gaza in 2005 and two years later Hamas took control of the impoverished enclave, which the Israelis have kept under blockade.
At a news conference during a visit to Bangkok, Mr Obama said Israel had "every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory".