ISRAELI WARPLANES KEPT up deadly raids on Gaza overnight but failed to stop Palestinian militants firing rockets across the border, as the United States offered to help negotiate a truce.
With the violence growing worse, US President Barack Obama in a phone call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was willing to broker a ceasefire.
Obama said he was concerned the fighting could escalate and “called for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians”, the White House said.
“The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities, including a return to the November 2012 ceasefire agreement.”
The 2012 deal, brokered by former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Egypt, ended eight days of Israeli airstrikes on Hamas targets in a previous showdown.
Appeals for an immediate truce also came from UN chief Ban Ki-moon at an emergency meeting Thursday of the Security Council, saying a ceasefire was “more urgent than ever”.
Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a similar plea in a phone call to Netanyahu, urging an immediate end to the bloodshed and expressing concern over civilian casualties.
But Israel appeared bent on dealing a fatal blow to the Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, with Netanyahu reportedly saying talk of a ceasefire was “not even on the agenda”.
Israeli air strikes killed more than 30 Palestinians on Thursday alone, many of them women and children.
Hamas, the Palestinian group ruling Gaza, also appeared to have no interest in letting up, striking deep inside Israel over the past 48 hours, with rockets crashing down near Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and even as far away as Hadera, 116 kilometres (72 miles) to the north.
Senior Hamas member and the movement’s former Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniya ruled out any backing down by the Islamist movement.
“The enemy (Israel) is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are (simply) defending ourselves,” Haniya said in a statement early today.