Egypt opened a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy in Gaza on Friday, but hopes for even a brief ceasefire while its prime minister was inside the bombarded enclave to talk to leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement were immediately dashed.
A rocket fired from Gaza landed in the sea near Tel Aviv after alarms sounded, sending residents of Israel’s commercial capital scurrying for cover for the second straight day.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited the Gaza Strip on Friday officially to show solidarity with the Palestinian people after two days of relentless attacks by Israeli warplanes determined to end militant rocket fire at Israel.
But a Palestinian official close to Egypt’s mediators told Reuters that Kandil’s visit, which included members of Cairo’s secret service, “was the beginning of a process to explore the possibility of reaching a truce. It is early to speak of any details or of how things will evolve”.
Israel undertook to cease fire during the visit if Hamas did too. But it said rockets fired from Gaza had hit several sites in southern Israel as he was in the enclave.
According to a Hamas source, the Israeli air force launched an attack on the house of Hamas’s commander for southern Gaza which resulted in the death of two civilians, one a child.
But Israel’s military strongly denied carrying out any attacks from the time Kandil entered Gaza, and accused Hamas of violating the three-hour deal. “Israel has not attacked in Gaza for the past two hours,” a spokesman said.
“Even though about 50 rockets have fallen in Israel over the past two hours, we chose not to attack in Gaza due to the visit of the Egyptian prime minister. Hamas is lying and reporting otherwise,” the army said in a Twitter message.
Kandil said: “Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce.”