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Egypt says raids would end; death toll in Gaza 122

November 20, 2012 21:54 IST

Fresh exchange of fire between Israel and Hamas continued unabated amid intensified international diplomatic efforts, with Egypt saying that Israeli "aggression" would end Tuesday, as a week of incessant raids claimed at least 122 Palestinian lives.

A loud boom was heard in Jerusalem with the Israeli police and army saying a rocket had crashed into an open area near Gush Etzion. No casualties were reported.

An Israeli air strike on Gaza City today killed at least six people and took the death toll of Palestinians to 122.

Eleven Hamas rockets came flying into the Israeli city of Beer Sheva, causing casualties. More than 30 rockets were fired into the area on Tuesday, but most were destroyed by Iron Dome interceptors.

Israel's air force dropped leaflets across Gaza City that asked people to evacuate their homes "immediately".

The Israeli military, meanwhile, reported that a strike "targeted two terrorists in the northern Gaza Strip," and a "direct hit was confirmed."

"Zionist enemy would pay high price for his crimes in Gaza," Hamas' military wing the al Qassam Brigades quoted one of its leaders as saying.

Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked Gaza's Hamas leaders to choose between peace and "the sword."

"Our hand is outstretched in peace to those of our neighbours who want to make peace with us and the other hand is firmly grasping the sword of David against those who wish to uproot us from this country," he said in a statement, referring to the biblical warrior king.

Egyptian President Muhammed Mursi said Israel's "aggression" against Gaza would end today and Egypt's mediation efforts would produce "positive results" shortly, the official Mena news agency reported.

A top delegation of Arab ministers led by Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi began a solidarity mission in Gaza today looking to bring an end to the hostilities.

US President Barack Obama today dispatched Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the Middle East on a fire fighting mission to defuse tension and prevent any further escalation of conflict in the region.

"Clinton will depart today and she'll travel to Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Cairo, leaving from Phonm Penh," Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communication, said.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon met the Arab league chief, Nabil al-Arabi, and called on to support Mursi's efforts to mediate a truce.

Ban stepped into the Egypt-led efforts to strike a ceasefire, as the Security Council wrangled over an Arab-proposed statement calling for Israel-Hamas hostilities to end, with Russia expressing frustration over the silence on the issue and blaming the US for blocking any action.

Mohammed Deif, a man identified as the most elusive top military commander of Hamas, has urged the group's fighters to keep up attacks on Israel.

Early this morning, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, which is located in a residential area, Al Jazeera reported.

At a late night cabinet meeting, the Israeli government agreed to briefly hold off sending ground forces into Gaza to see how the ceasefire efforts in Cairo turn out, according to Jerusalem Post.

While several Western nations have supported Israel's military offensive and its "right to defense", they have warned against launching a ground invasion of Gaza enclave.

Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, the controlling authority of Gaza, said Hamas was aware that Israel is "capable" of an invasion, but warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a move would not "be a picnic, but a political disaster".

Speaking at a press conference in Cairo yesterday, Meshaal said Hamas was willing for a truce but the Israeli aggression and the continued economic blockade of Gaza should end.

"Whoever started the war must end it," he said, insisting that Hamas would not yield to Israeli conditions on a ceasefire.

Israel President Shimon Peres meanwhile accused Iran of encouraging the Palestinians to continue rocket attacks on Israel rather than negotiating a ceasefire even as he praised Mursi's role in the crisis.

"They are out of their mind," he said of the Iranians.

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