Meanwhile, Egypt dispatched Saad al-Katany, the chief of the Muslim Brotherhood’s political party, to lead a delegation to the Gaza Strip on Monday in a show of solidarity for Palestinians living in the besieged enclave.
The Israeli military said in a statement Monday that it struck 80 “terror sites” overnight throughout Gaza, “inflicting severe damage to the rocket-launching capabilities” of militant groups in the Palestinian territory.
Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip on Sunday killed at least 10 members of one family, including a mother and her four children, and struck two buildings used by journalists, inflicting the heaviest toll on civilians since fighting began Wednesday.
Militants in Gaza continued to lob dozens of rounds toward Israel, including two powerful rockets that burst over Tel Aviv on Sunday after Israel’s antimissile system intercepted them in midair.
With little apparent progress in cease-fire negotiations in Cairo, British Foreign Secretary William Hague warned that Israel would lose support from the international community if it followed through on threats to deploy troops in Gaza. President Obama, at the start of a three-day trip to Southeast Asia, reiterated U.S. support for Israel’s right of self-defense but said he was hopeful that the fighting could end through diplomacy.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi spoke by telephone Monday to a number of world leaders, according to his spokesman, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The Iranian leader commended Morsi’s efforts to stabilize Gaza and said he wanted to “work toward a solution to prevent the continuation of crimes against the innocent sons of Gaza and return security to Gaza and the rest of the Palestinian territories.” according to the Iranian state-run news agency.
The intense crossfire of recent days illustrated the enhanced capabilities that both sides have achieved since a three-week Gaza offensive in 2008-2009, which killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.
Since Wednesday, Gaza-based militants have fired about 830 rounds of artillery that either slammed into Israel or were intercepted, according to the Israeli military. The number exceeds the approximately 800 that landed during the earlier Gaza campaign, called Operation Cast Lead.
The handful of longer-range rockets that have been detonated over Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem in the past three days mark a game-changer for Hamas, the Islamist group that rules Gaza and in the past has been unable to strike Israel’s largest cities.