At least 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children, were killed on Sunday in what Hamas said was an Israeli air strike on a Gaza apartment building, the highest death toll in a single incident in five days of fighting.
Israel gave off signs of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run enclave as the next stage in its air and sea offensive billed as a bid to stop Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state, while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.
U.S. President Barack Obama said that while Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket salvoes, it would be “preferable” to avoid a military thrust into the Gaza Strip, a narrow, densely populated coastal territory. Such an assault would risk high casualties and an international outcry.
A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said an Israeli missile wrecked the three-storey residential building, killing 11 people, all of them civilians. Medics said four women and four children were among the dead.
The Israeli military had no immediate comment. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier that he had assured world leaders that Israel was doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in the military showdown with Hamas.
“The massacre of the Dalu family will not pass without punishment,” Hamas’s armed wing said in a statement.
For their part, Gaza militants launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day. The Jewish state’s “Iron Dome” missile shield shot down two of the rockets fired toward Tel Aviv, Israel’s biggest city, but falling debris from the interception hit a car, which caught fire. Its driver was not hurt.
In scenes recalling Israel’s 2008-2009 winter incursion into Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border. Military convoys moved on roads in the area newly closed to civilian traffic.