Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would arrive on Tuesday evening for crisis talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
International diplomacy to end the Gaza conflict went into high gear Tuesday, as Israelis and Palestinians weighed an Egyptian proposal for a truce ahead of a visit by the UN chief and top U.S. diplomat.
The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza said the Palestinian death toll had reached 111, about half of them civilians, after Israel pounded more than 100 targets overnight. Dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel.
As Israel’s operation against the rockets entered its seventh day, Israel announced it would delay a decision on whether to launch a ground offensive in Gaza by at least 24 hours.
Diplomatic efforts to impose a ceasefire were intensifying, with media reporting that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would arrive Tuesday evening for crisis talks in Jerusalem and Ramallah.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon, a delegation from the Arab League and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle were in the region.
Mr Ban, met with Arab League chief Nabil al—Arabi and Egyptian officials in Cairo Tuesday and was expected to arrive in Israel by 1200 GMT. He is due to hold talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“This must stop,” Mr Ban said of the Gaza fighting in a news conference with al—Arabi in Cairo.
Westerwelle too opened a day of talks by meeting Israeli President Shimon Peres, before meeting Mr Netanyahu and Mr Abbas.
Mr Netanyahu convened his inner cabinet overnight to discuss truce proposals by Egypt, but the session ended without a decision, his spokesman Mark Regev said.
“We are giving, not unlimited, but more time” to the truce talks, he said.
“In parallel the preparations for a ground offensive are continuing,” Regev told DPA.
An Israeli military statement said the targets hit early Tuesday included underground rocket launchers, tunnels, and houses used by militants leaders as “hideouts” or “command centres.” A man, Fouad Hijazi, his wife and two sons, aged two and four, were killed in Beit Lahia, north of Gaza City, in one of the overnight airstrikes, witnesses said. Some 15 other Palestinians were injured.
Since Israel expanded its airstrikes to include the alleged houses of militant leaders, the Palestinian death toll of the past seven days of fighting has steadily risen. Hundreds have been injured.
Three Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets and more than 50 injured, with rescuers saying they also treated more than 200 Israelis for “shock.” Palestinians fired at least 40 rockets at southern Israel early Tuesday, including a volley of 16 Russian—type Grad at Beersheba, some 40 kilometres east of the Gaza Strip. Hamas claimed responsibility for the attack.
Israeli police said one person was injured. One rocket struck next to a bus, minutes after its passengers got off to rush for cover.
The Israeli military said over the past days that it damaged Hamas’ and the Islamic Jihad’s rocket—launching capabilities. A police statement noted a “certain decline” in the number of rockets fired at Israel since the Gaza offensive got underway late Wednesday — with 246 launches Thursday, 211 Friday, 168 Saturday, 117 Sunday and 116 Monday.