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Palestinians militants fired 31 rockets at Israel, causing no casualties, and Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor system shot down 14 of them, police said.
Israel has carried out more than 1,500 strikes since the offensive began. Medical officials in Gaza said 139 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 34 children, have been killed. Nearly 1,400 rockets have been fired into Israel, killing four civilians and a soldier, the Israeli military said.
In the West Bank city of Ramallah, Clinton held talks with Palestinian President Abbas, whose bid to upgrade the Palestinians’ status at the United Nations, in the absence of peace negotiations with Israel, is opposed by Washington.
“Secretary Clinton informed the president that the U.S administration is exerting every possible effort to reach an immediate ceasefire and the president expressed his full support for this endeavour,” said Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat.
“Once the Israelis accept to stop their bombardments, their assassinations, there will be a comprehensive ceasefire sustained from all parties,” Erekat said.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of Cairo’s mediation told Reuters that Egyptian intelligence officials would hold further discussions on Wednesday with leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad group.
“There may be a response from Israel that Egyptian mediators want to present to Hamas and Islamic Jihad leaders,” the official said. “Let’s be hopeful it would be something Palestinian factions can accept.”
Like most Western powers, Washington shuns Hamas as an obstacle to peace and has blamed it for the Gaza conflagration. A U.N. Security Council statement condemning the conflict was blocked on Tuesday by the United States, which complained that it “failed to address the root cause,” the Palestinian rockets.
Hamas for its part is exploring the opportunities that last year’s Arab Spring has given it to enjoy favour from new Islamist governments, and from Sunni Gulf powers keen to woo it away from Shi’ite Iran.
It may count on some sympathy from Mursi, although Egypt’s first freely elected leader, whose Muslim Brotherhood inspired Hamas’ founders, has been careful to stick by the 1979 peace deal with Israel struck by Cairo’s former military rulers.
Along the Gaza border, Israeli tanks, artillery and infantry remained poised for a possible ground offensive in the densely populated enclave of 1.7 million Palestinians.
But an invasion, likely to entail heavy casualties, would be a major political risk for Netanyahu, who is currently favoured to win the upcoming Israeli election. More than 1,400 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s three-week war in the Gaza Strip in 2008-9, prompting international criticism of Israel.