Death toll from Israeli air strikes hits 101
A new wave of Israeli air strikes brought the death toll in Gaza past 100 yesterday amid continuing diplomatic efforts to broker a ceasefire to end the six-day conflict.
Hamas and Israel stressed that they were open to a deal and Egyptian mediators said an end to the fighting could be close, but the two sides were sharply at odds on the terms of any long-term truce.
Casualties continued to rise in the Gaza Strip, where Israeli attacks from air and sea killed 24 people and brought the number of Palestinian dead to 101, according to the Hamas-run health ministry and medics. Hospital officials in Gaza said more than half of those killed were non-combatants.
For the second straight day, Israeli missiles blasted a tower block in the city of Gaza housing international media. Two people were killed there, one of them an Islamic Jihad militant.
Elsewhere in the city, thousands attended the funeral of nine family members, including a mother and four children, who were killed when their home was bombed on Sunday.
Their deaths drew more international calls to end hostilities and put pressure on Israel, which insists its 1,300 missile attacks in Gaza in the past six days have targeted Hamas and its military infrastructure.
On the Israeli side of the border, police said 110 rockets were fired from Gaza yesterday, causing no injuries. Three Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets since Wednesday.
US president Barack Obama spoke to Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, while UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon visited the region to push for an end to violence.
The exiled leader of Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, said a truce was possible but the Islamist group wanted Israel to halt its strikes and lift its six-year blockade.
“Whoever started the war must end it,” he said in Cairo.
For Israel, vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon said attacks against targets in Gaza would stop “if there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip”. He also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza guerrilla activity in the Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
Israel has called up 75,000 military reservists and continues to send tanks to the border. However, according to Israel’s Haaretz newspaper, only 30 per cent want an invasion, while 19 per cent want their government to work on a truce.