Israel raids kill 31 in Gaza as truce efforts intensify

Gaza bombing

Security officials in Cairo said an Israeli envoy had also arrived in the Egyptian capital yesterday for the talks.

Egypt's President Muhammad Mursi, meanwhile, met with both Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad chief Abdullah Shalah to discuss "Egyptian efforts to end the aggression," his office said without giving details.

But Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman insisted that "the first and absolute condition for a truce is stopping all fire from Gaza," and that all armed groups would have to commit to it.

Earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Israel was ready to "significantly expand" its operation. He spoke ahead of talks with French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who is on a whirlwind truce tour of the region.

Fabius later said his country was willing to help broker a truce. "War is not an option, it is never an option... There are two key words: urgency and ceasefire," he told journalists in Tel Aviv.

Early yesterday, Israeli aircraft hit two media centres in Gaza City, wounding at least eight journalists, one of whom lost a leg, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.

The military defended the strike, saying it had targeted Hamas operational communications and sought to minimise civilian casualties.

Amid the truce efforts, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said "a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation."

On yesterday, about 125 rockets hit Israel, while scores more were intercepted in mid-flight by the Iron Dome defence system, the army said.

Throughout the day, two were fired at Tel Aviv, triggering air raid sirens in the commercial metropolis for the fourth day. Iron Dome intercepted both, police said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, whose remit is limited to the West Bank, on yesterday urged his people to stage peaceful demonstrations against Israel's military offensive on Gaza.

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