Gaza City: Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil briefly visited the Gaza Strip on Friday to show solidarity with the Palestinians amid a barrage of Israeli aerial bomb attacks.
Qandil denounced Israel's attacks on the Palestinian territory and said Cairo would try to secure a ceasefire, news agency Reuters reported.
"Egypt will spare no effort ... to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce," the PM said during a visit to a Gaza hospital.
Egypt, now led by an Islamist government seen as ideologically close to Hamas, has brokered previous informal truces between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip.
While Qandil was in Gaza City for three hours, fighting continued along the Israel-Gaza border.
Israel had said that it was halting the pounding of Gaza for the Egyptian leader’s visit. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had earlier warned that the temporary ceasefire would end if rockets were fired from Gaza.
Israel had on Thursday night stepped up its aerial strikes in Gaza City, shortly after the Army called-up 30,000 reservists amid indications that a ground offensive was inevitable.
Israel reportedly attacked over 130 targets in Gaza overnight, while the Palestinian militants fired 11 rockets into Israel, the BBC reported.
The step-up in air bombardment came after Hamas militants launched rocket attacks on densely populated Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial and cultural capital.
This was the first Hamas attack in the Israeli heartland in years, and was part of an unprecedented barrage that threatened to provoke an Israeli assault.
News agency AP reported that three Israelis were killed in a separate rocket attack in southern Israel.
Air raid sirens wailed and panicked residents ran for cover in Tel Aviv. Israel responded by moving troops and heavy weapons towards Gaza and authorizing the call-up of tens of thousands of reservists.
There was no word on where the two rockets aimed at Tel Aviv landed, raising the possibility they fell into the Mediterranean. A third rocket landed in an open area on the southern outskirts of Tel Aviv.
The fighting, the heaviest in four years, came after Israel launched a ferocious air assault on Wednesday to stop repeated rocket fire from Gaza. The powerful Hamas military chief was killed in that strike, and another 18 Palestinians have died over two days, including five children. Some 100 Palestinians have been wounded.
Netanyahu said the Army was hitting Hamas hard with what he called surgical strikes, and warned of a "significant widening" of the Gaza operation. Israel will "continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people," said Netanyahu, who is up for re-election in January.
Defence Minister Ehud Barak said he authorized the call-up of reservists, and the Army said up to 30,000 additional troops could be drafted.
Israel believes Hamas has significantly boosted its arsenal since the last Gaza war four years ago, including with weapons from Iran and from Libyan stockpiles plundered after the 2011 fall of the regime there.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Friday, November 16, 2012, 09:16