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In an attack claimed in Gaza by Hamas’s armed wing, a longer-range rocket targeted Jerusalem on Tuesday for the second time since Israel launched the air offensive.
The rocket, which fell harmlessly in the occupied West Bank, triggered warning sirens in the holy city about the time Ban arrived for truce discussions. Another rocket damaged an apartment building in Rishon Lezion, near Tel Aviv.
Rockets fired at the two big cities over the past week were the first to reach them in decades, a sign of what Israel says is an increasing threat from Gaza militants.
In the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, Hamas executed six alleged collaborators, whom a security source quoted by the Hamas Aqsa radio said “were caught red-handed” with “filming equipment to take footage of positions”. The radio said they were shot.
Militants on a motorcycle dragged the body of one of the men through the streets.
Along Israel’s sandy, fenced-off border with the Gaza Strip, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments awaiting any orders to go in. Some 45,000 reserve troops have been called up since the offensive was launched.
A delegation of nine Arab ministers, led by the Egyptian foreign minister, visited Gaza in a further signal of heightened Arab solidarity with the Palestinians.
Egypt has been a key player in efforts to end the most serious fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants since a three-week Israeli invasion of the enclave in the winter of 2008-9. Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty with Israel seen by the West as the cornerstone of Middle East peace, but that has been tested as never before by the removal of U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak as president last year in the Arab Spring uprisings.
Mohamed Mursi, elected Egyptian president this year, is a veteran of the Muslim Brotherhood, spiritual mentors of Hamas, but says he is committed to Egypt’s treaty with Israel.
Mursi has warned Netanyahu of serious consequences from an invasion of the kind that killed more than 1,400 people in Gaza four years ago. But he has been careful so far not to alienate Israel, or Washington, a major aid donor to Egypt.