Israel kept up the pressure on Hamas in Gaza yesterday with multiple air strikes that killed nine Palestinians, five of them from the same family, as Egypt prepared to hold new truce talks.
Eighty-six Palestinians and a four-year-old Israeli boy have been killed since Tuesday, when a previous round of Egyptian diplomacy collapsed, shattering nine days of calm.
"Egypt is going to invite delegates to return to the negotiating table to consider a long-term truce," Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said after talks with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi.
"What interests us now is putting a stop to the bloodshed. As soon as a ceasefire goes into effect, the two sides can sit down and discuss their demands."
Abbas' meeting with Sisi came after the Palestinian president held two rounds of talks in Qatar with exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal.
Israel has vowed no let-up until it can guarantee the safety of its civilians, while Hamas insists Israel must end its eight-year blockade of the territory as part of any truce. At least 2,100 Palestinians and 68 on the Israeli side, all but four of them soldiers, have been killed since July 8.
The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of air strikes yesterday and that at least 40 rockets and mortar rounds had hit southern Israel, with a number of rockets intercepted.
Palestinian police said late yesterday that Israeli warplanes had fired two missiles into an apartment tower in central Gaza city, wounding at least 10 people, including children.
Israel sent text messages, voice mails and leaflets into Gaza warning Palestinians that they should stay away from "terrorists" and that "every house from which militant activity is carried out will be targeted".
The deadliest Israeli air strike levelled a home in Al-Zawayda, killing a couple, their sons aged three and four, and an aunt.
The intensified strikes came after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed harsh retribution for Friday's killing of the boy in his kibbutz home.
"Hamas will pay a heavy price for this attack," Netanyahu spokesman Ofir Gendelman quoted him as saying.
Meanwhile, Hamas leaders said they had given their consent for the Palestinians to join the International Criminal Court, a move that could open up both Israel and the militant group to war crime probes. There was no immediate comment from Israel, which is also not an ICC member.