Egypt hopes for accord as Israel's assault on Gaza extends into fifth day
Seven members of same family killed in attack, say Hamas officials
Israeli air strikes yesterday killed 18 Palestinians in the bloodiest day so far of its massive air campaign on the Gaza Strip, as diplomatic efforts to broker a truce intensified.
With Egypt at the centre of efforts to broker a ceasefire, Palestinian officials said it was possible a deal would be reached "today or tomorrow".
But there was no letup in the bloodshed in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, with yesterday's victims including four toddlers, a 13-year-old girl and three other children in a relentless campaign of air strikes which has stoked Arab and Islamic anger.
In the day's deadliest raid, at least seven members of the same family, four of them children, were among nine people killed when an Israeli missile destroyed a family home in Gaza City, the health ministry said.
Israeli aircraft also hit two media centres in Gaza City, wounding at least eight journalists. The military defended the strike, saying it had targeted Hamas operational communications and sought to minimise civilian casualties.
Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi said there were indications an agreement to halt the fighting may be reached. But his comments were undermined by air-raid sirens and loud booms over Tel Aviv as two rockets were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome missile-defence system.
"We have extracted a heavy price from Hamas and other terrorist organisations, and the army is prepared to significantly widen the operation," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Jerusalem.
Speaking in Bangkok on his Asian tour, US President Barack Obama said it was "preferable" for the Gaza crisis to be ended without a "ramping up" of Israeli military activity.
In Cairo, senior Hamas officials said Egyptian-mediated talks to end the conflict were "positive" but now focused on the possible stumbling block of guaranteeing the terms of a truce.
Bloomberg, Reuters, Agence France-Presse