Israel kept up the pressure on Hamas in Gaza yesterday, carrying out multiple air strikes that killed nine Palestinians, three of them children, as Egypt prepared to convene new truce talks.
Since a previous round of frantic Egyptian diplomacy collapsed, shattering nine days of calm, 84 Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli boy have died as a result of the violence.
"Egypt is going to invite delegates to return to the negotiating table to consider a long-term truce," Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said after talks with Egyptian leader Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
"What interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed," Abbas said. "As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands."
Abbas's meeting with Sisi came after he held two rounds of talks in Qatar on Thursday and Friday with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, whose Islamist movement is the de facto ruler of Gaza.
Israel has vowed no let-up until it can guarantee the safety of its civilians, while Hamas insists that Israel must end its eight-year blockade of the territory as part of any truce.
Israel said it had carried out 35 air strikes over the Gaza Strip yesterday and that around 30 rockets and mortar rounds hit Israel, with another three intercepted.
The intensified air strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed harsh retribution for the killing of a four-year-old boy at his home in kibbutz Nahal Oz on Friday.
“Hamas will pay a heavy price for this attack. IDF [Israel Defence Forces] & ISA [Israel Securities Authority] will intensify ops against Hamas until the goal of #ProtectiveEdge is achieved,” a spokesman for Netanyahu posted on Twitter on last night.
One Israeli child and at least 480 Palestinian children have been killed since the conflict began, UNICEF said, in the deadliest fighting since the 2005 end of the second intifada.
The military sent text messages, voice mails and leaflets warning Palestinians to stay away from "terrorists" and that "every house from which militant activity is carried out, will be targeted."
The deadliest air strike levelled a home in Al-Zawayda in central Gaza, killing a couple, their sons aged three and four, and a 45-year-old aunt, medics said. Neighbours said the family house had been bombed earlier in the conflict and that the family had returned to camp out in the ruins, when it was hit overnight by an F16.
A 64-year-old Palestinian man and a 12-year-old boy were killed in separate air strikes, south of Gaza City and in the town of Deir al-Balah, the emergency services said.