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An upsurge in violence has been seen in Gaza and southern Israel despite a plea by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a cessation of hostilities.

Explosions in Gaza City reportedly killed 10 people, including children.

Israel confirmed five of its soldiers died on Monday – one inside Gaza and four in a mortar attack along the border. Five Hamas militants were also killed inside Israel, officials said.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu warned of a “prolonged” Israeli campaign in Gaza.

“We will continue to act aggressively and responsibly until the mission is completed to protect our citizens, soldiers and children,” Benjamin Netanyahu said.

Calling Monday a “painful day”, Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would not finish its operation until it had “neutralized” Hamas tunnels out of Gaza.

An upsurge in violence has been seen in Gaza and southern Israel despite a plea by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a cessation of hostilities

An upsurge in violence has been seen in Gaza and southern Israel despite a plea by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for a cessation of hostilities

Fighting between Israel and Hamas has claimed more than 1,030 Palestinian lives, most of them civilian, since 8 July, when Israel launched an offensive against Hamas in Gaza after a surge in rocket fire.

On July 18, it extended operations with a ground offensive, saying it was necessary to destroy tunnels dug by militants to infiltrate Israel.

Israel’s military death toll rose to 48 with Monday’s deaths. Three civilians have also died.

Earlier, Ban Ki-moon urged an immediate halt to the violence in Gaza, saying the Palestinian territory was in a “critical condition”.

Ban Ki-moon, who spoke in New York after returning from a visit to the region, was critical of both sides for firing into civilian areas.

He said Hamas had fired missiles into civilian areas of Israel, while Israeli forces had used high-explosive weapons in the crowded Gaza Strip.

The secretary general repeated the UN’s call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Later, the French presidency said the leaders of the US, France, Germany, Italy and Britain – who held telephone talks – had “agreed to redouble their efforts to obtain a ceasefire. Pressure must increase to get there”.

At least 10 people – eight of them children – were killed in Monday afternoon’s blasts in Gaza City, Palestinian health officials said.

Palestinian officials say the 10 were killed by Israeli missile strikes, but Israel says the explosions were caused by rockets misfired by “terrorists”.

Four Israeli soldiers were killed and another 10 injured when a mortar shell hit the Eshkol district.

The Israeli military said the five Hamas militants who died had entered Israel via a tunnel from Gaza and opened fire on Israeli troops, who returned fire.

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Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday.

The comment came as US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is heading to the region to support ceasefire efforts.

Israel says it has put plans for a land invasion of Gaza on hold.

But it has also told villagers in north, south and east of Gaza to move to central areas for their own safety.

Leaflets dropped in a number of villages say: “The Israel Defense Forces are not targeting any of you and they do not want to harm you or your families. For your safety we demand you to evacuate your houses immediately and move towards the centre of Gaza city.”

The conflict began last Wednesday when Israel killed a Hamas military leader, saying it wanted an end to rocket attacks from Gaza. More than 110 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed.

Tuesday has seen a reduced level of violence, correspondents say, even though Israel has conducted some strikes. One was a “direct hit” on two militants in northern Gaza, the Israeli military said.

It also said about 90 rockets had been fired from Gaza toward Israel, and that more than 50 had been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system. Five soldiers were wounded in one rocket attack, the military said, without specifying the location.

Local journalists say they saw Hamas fighters summarily execute six people on Tuesday afternoon for being Israeli informers.

One eyewitness told AFP news agency: “Gunmen in a minibus pulled up in the neighborhood, pushed six men out and shot them without leaving the vehicle.”

President Mohammed Mursi said Israel’s “aggression” against Gaza would end on Tuesday and Egypt’s mediation efforts would produce “positive results” shortly, the official Mena news agency reported.

The content of the Egyptian plan is not known, but both Israel and Hamas have presented conditions.

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday

Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi, who is leading mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, says he expects Israeli forces to end air strikes on Gaza later on Tuesday

Israel’s demands include no hostile fire of any kind from Gaza and international efforts to prevent Hamas from rearming, while Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade on Gaza and “Israel’s assassinations”.

Israeli troops are massed along the border, raising fears of a ground offensive similar to that of 2008-09. An Israeli spokesman said: “Israel wants talks to succeed but we’re prepared to go into Gaza.”

In a rare appearance, top Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif said: “The enemy should know that it will pay a heavy price for its heinous crimes against our people.”

He added that a ground invasion would “be the starting point for a new phase of the struggle of liberation”.

Hillary Clinton is due in Israel for crisis talks later on Tuesday. She will underline that “the best way to solve this is through diplomacy”, said Barack Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser, Ben Rhodes.

During the previous night, the Israeli military said it had carried out about 100 strikes, mainly on smuggling tunnels and underground rocket-launching facilities. Hamas officials say seven people were killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon met Arab League Chief Nabil al-Arabi in Cairo on Tuesday, before heading for talks in Israel.

“I’m here to appeal personally for an end to the violence and to offer my ongoing efforts to achieve a ceasefire,” Ban Ki-moon told a joint news conference in Cairo.

Ban Ki-moon warned against a ground operation in Gaza.

“Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk,” he said.

Egypt has been trying to broker a ceasefire with the help of Qatar and Turkey. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Arab foreign ministers are expected to visit Gaza on Tuesday.

Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning a decisive victory in general elections. Israel withdrew from the strip in 2005 but maintains a blockade around it.

Israel, as well as the United States and the European Union, regards Hamas as a terrorist organization.

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Israeli air strikes have targeted the headquarters of Gaza’s Hamas leaders, as the bombardment of the coastal enclave moved into a fourth day.

Witnesses reported extensive damage to the building, which Egypt’s PM Hisham Qandil had visited on Friday.

At least 38 Palestinians and three Israelis have died since Israel killed Hamas’s military chief on Wednesday.

Israel earlier put 75,000 reservists on stand-by amid speculation of a ground invasion.

Militants in Gaza have continued to fire rockets into Israel, aiming at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Friday.

After a lull overnight – with correspondents reporting that the area was quiet but for the almost-constant buzz of drones overhead – Gaza City was hit by a string of large explosions shortly after 03:00 local time on Saturday.

There was another series of strikes in and around the city shortly after 05:00 local time, with several targeting Hamas’ cabinet buildings, which correspondents say were likely to have been empty.

Gaza sources say bodies were trapped under rubble at a house hit in Jabalia, north of Gaza City. Casualty figures remain unclear.

Three members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, are said to have been among those killed overnight.

As well as Hamas buildings, Israeli aircraft targeted electricity transformers and the network of tunnels used to smuggle goods and weapons from Egypt into Gaza, reports said.

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said a total of 200 targets had been hit overnight, including 120 rocket launchers and 20 smuggling tunnels in southern Gaza.

Rumors have been swirling that a ground attack is imminent, but Israeli officials say no decision has been made.

Israel blocked access to three major routes leading into Gaza on Friday. Call-up papers have already been sent to 16,000 Israeli reservists, with officials authorizing the mobilization of another 75,000.

Israeli air strikes have targeted the headquarters of Gaza's Hamas leaders

Israeli air strikes have targeted the headquarters of Gaza’s Hamas leaders

Militants and civilians, including at least seven children, have been among the Palestinians killed during Israeli strikes in recent days, Hamas says.

The group’s military leader Ahmed Jabari was killed on Wednesday. A senior commander was killed on Friday, officials said.

Two Israeli women and a man died when a rocket hit a building in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday, officials said.

Before the recent offensive, Israel had repeatedly carried out air strikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fired rockets across the border.

On Friday, Hamas said it fired rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem: Haaretz newspaper said it was the first time since 1970 that a rocket had been fired at Jerusalem.

Israel’s army says the operation – codenamed Pillar of Defence – has hit more than 800 sites in Gaza, including underground rocket launchers & infrastructure.

It says hundreds of rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Wednesday, a quarter of which had been intercepted by its radar defence system, Iron Dome.

The army said about 10 rockets were fired from Gaza early on Saturday. There were no reports of casualties from those attacks.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of carrying out “massacres”.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem has arrived in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to show support for Hamas.

Western leaders and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have appealed for both sides to stop the violence.

In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, President Barack Obama reiterated US support for Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

Barack Obama also spoke to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi. Mohammed Mursi has called the Israeli raids “a blatant aggression against humanity” and promised that Egypt “will not leave Gaza on its own”.

Ties between Hamas and Egypt have strengthened since Mohammed Mursi’s election earlier this year.

Hamas was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mohammed Mursi belongs.

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Two people, including a senior Palestinian militant leader, have been killed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza, according to Israeli and Palestinian sources.

Zohair al-Qaisi, secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), was targeted because he was planning an attack, the Israelis said.

The Israeli military later confirmed a second air strike killed two more people it says were preparing to fire rockets into Israel.

The PRC, which represents a number of armed factions aligned with Hamas, has carried out several rocket and grenade attacks against Israel.

Palestinian sources said the second militant was Mahmoud Hanani, who was released from an Israeli prison five years ago and sent to Gaza.

Earlier sources had wrongly said he was among those released under a prisoner exchange deal which led to the release of the captured soldier Gilad Shalit.

Medical sources say a third man was seriously injured in the attack, near Gaza City.

Witnesses say Israeli drones were heard in the area shortly before the car burst into flames, AP reports.

The air-strike came a few hours after two mortar shells fired from Gaza landed in Israel without causing injury.

Zohair al-Qaisi, secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), was targeted because he was planning an attack

Zohair al-Qaisi, secretary general of the Popular Resistance Committees (PRC), was targeted because he was planning an attack

An Israeli military spokesman said Zohair al-Qaisi was behind a series of gun and bomb attacks near Israel’s border with Egypt last year, in which eight Israelis were killed.

Ten of the attackers and five Egyptian soldiers also died.

A spokesman for the PRC in Gaza vowed to take revenge on Israel for the attack.

The PRC is a coalition of armed factions in Gaza that is loyal to Hamas but sometimes operates separately.

The former head of the PRC, Kamal al-Nairab, and its military chief were killed in a similar Israeli attack last year.