Israel, Hamas Conflict Escalates Despite Egypt PM Visit in Gaza
The confrontation between Israel and Hamas continued to escalate Friday when Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited the Gaza Strip.
Kandil spent several hours in the Gaza Strip visiting a hospital, where he denounced Israel's "aggression" and called on the world to stop the violence. The Egyptian prime minister's visit had offered hope for a ceasefire, but the attacks continued, RIA Novosti reported.
Later in the day, Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdesslem announced plans to lead a high-level delegation to Gaza on Saturday to show solidarity with the Palestinian people.
Israeli official Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier Israel had been ready to suspend all military action during Kandil's three-hour visit at Egypt's request so long as Hamas halted its fire. But Palestinian rocket attacks continued and Israel launched air strikes during the day.
"Hamas does not respect the Egyptian PM's visit to Gaza and violates the temporary ceasefire that Israel agreed to during the visit," Ofir Gendelman, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, wrote on Twitter.
The Israel Defense Forces responded with an airstrike in the northern Gaza Strip in which two Palestinians were killed, according to The Jerusalem Post citing a Hamas source.
The new deaths would increase the death toll to 21 Palestinians since Wednesday. The IDF denied any strikes from the Israeli side.
The two-day escalation of violence started after Israel launch a strike that killed Hamas' Hamas' military chief Ahmed al-Jabari and attacked hundreds of rocket-launching sites on Wednesday. At least three Israelis have been killed in Palestinian attacks since then.
Tel Aviv, some 70 kilometers north of Gaza, came under attack for a second day. Israeli officials reported that a rocket fired from Gaza hit near Tel Aviv, possibly crashing into the sea, and that they were working to determine the exact point of impact.
The rocket attacks mark the first time Tel Aviv has come so close to being hit since the 1991 Gulf War.
In a sign of further escalation, Israel's army has begun the call-up of 16,000 reservists, the military said. Earlier the military announced that it had been authorized to call up as many as 30,000 reservists.
The latest upsurge in attacks – the biggest since an informal truce took hold four years ago – comes ahead of parliamentary elections in Israel set to take place on January 22.