EU calls for 'rapid' Gaza ceasefire
Israel bombed dozens of suspected militant sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip today and Palestinians kept up their cross-border rocket fire as international pressure for a truce intensified.
United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon will travel to Jerusalem to meet with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and speak to Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, it emerged tonight.
Mr Ban will not visit the Gaza Strip which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas movement. Details of his itinerary were given by UN spokesman Martin Nesirky, speaking to reporters by phone.
For the second straight day, Israeli missiles hit a tower block in the city of Gaza housing international media. Two people were killed there, one of them an Islamic Jihad militant.
Khaled Meshaal, exiled leader of Hamas, said a truce was possible but the Islamist group, in charge of the Gaza Strip since 2007, would not accept Israeli demands and wanted Israel to halt its strikes first and lift its blockade of the enclave.
"Whoever started the war must end it," he told a news conference in Cairo, adding that Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces an election in January, had asked for a truce, an assertion a senior Israeli official denied.
Mr Meshaal said Mr Netanyahu feared the domestic consequences of a "land war" of the kind Israel launched four years ago: "He can do it, but he knows that it will not be a picnic and that it could be his political death and cost him the elections."
For Israel, vice prime minister Moshe Yaalon has said that "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, we will not attack."
Mr Yaalon also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza guerrilla activity in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai peninsula.
Although 84 per cent of Israelis supported the current Gaza assault, according to a poll by Israel's Haaretz newspaper, only 30 per cent wanted an invasion, while 19 per cent wanted their government to work on securing a truce soon.
Egypt said a deal for a truce to end the fighting could be close. The leader of Hamas said it was up to Israel to end the new conflict it had started.
"I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict," Egyptian prime minister Hisham Kandil, who visited Gaza on Friday in a show of support for its people, said in an interview in Cairo for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.
Egypt has been hosting leaders of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad, a smaller armed faction. Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to Cairo for truce talks.
A spokesman for Mr Netanyahu's government declined comment on the matter. Egypt's foreign minister is expected to visit Gaza tomorrow with a delegation of Arab ministers.