Egypt calls for Gaza ceasefire as fighting rages
GAZA/CAIRO - Egypt called on Israel and the Palestinians on Saturday to halt hostilities and resume peace talks but both sides kept up attacks, including an Israeli air strike which destroyed a residential tower block in the centre of Gaza City.
Initial reports said 17 people were wounded in the attack
Five Palestinians, including two children, were killed in another Israeli strike on a house in central Gaza, health officials said. Seven more Palestinians were killed in other strikes, including one on a car.
No Israeli casualties were reported on Saturday although rockets and mortar bombs rained down on Israel throughout the day, including one intercepted over the Tel Avivarea, the military said. At least 570 rockets had been fired at Israel since a ceasefire collapsed on Tuesday, it added.
Palestinian health officials say 2,083 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in the small, densely populated coastal enclave since July 8, when Israel launched an offensive with the declared aim of ending rocket fire into its territory.
Sixty-four Israeli soldiers and four cvilians have been killed.
The Egyptian Foreign Ministry on Saturday called on both sides to resume talks. Palestinian President Abbas, in Cairo after meeting President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, also urged a swift resumption of negotiations.
A senior Egyptian diplomat said Abbas had informed Sisi that Hamas was prepared to come to Cairo for further talks, but Hamas did not immediately confirm the report.Israel also had no immediate comment.
The talks, conducted in Cairo, do not involve direct meetings between Israeli officials and representatives of Hamas. Israel considers Hamas a terrorist organisation andHamas for its part refuses to recognise Israel. Egyptian officials shuttle between the two sides.
Saturday's violence took place a day after a four-year-old Israeli boy was killed by a mortar attack from Gaza, leading Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to threaten to escalate the fight against Hamas. The boy was the first Israeli child to have died in the conflict,
The United Nations says about 400,000 Gazans have been displaced and more than 400 children killed in the longest and deadliest violence between Israel and the Palestinians since the second Intifada, or Palestinian uprising, a decade ago.
Israel pulled ground forces out of Gaza more than two weeks ago after saying they had destroyed a network of Hamas tunnels used for cross-border ambushes. But Netanyahu last week granted provisional approval for the call-up of 10,000 army reservists, signalling the possibility of heightened military action.
Hamas leaders said on Saturday they have signed off on Abbas's bid to join theInternational Criminal Court (ICC), a move that could open up both Israel and the militant group to war crime probes over the Gaza conflict.
If the Palestinians were to sign the ICC's founding treaty, the Rome Statute, the court would have jurisdiction over crimes committed in the Palestinian territories. An investigation could then examine events as far back as mid-2002.