* Child killed, 15 people injured in pre dawn raids
* Hamas spokesman defiant in televised statement
* Egypt moves to broker ceasefire; Israel threatens invasion
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Allyn Fisher-Ilan
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 18 Israel bombed militant
targets in Gaza for a fifth straight day on Sunday, launching
aerial and naval attacks as its military prepared for a possible
ground invasion, though Egypt saw "some indications" of a truce
Forty-seven Palestinians, about half of them civilians,
including 12 children, have been killed in Israel's raids,
Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from
Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.
Israel unleashed its massive air campaign on Wednesday,
killing a leading militant of the Hamas Islamist group that
controls Gaza and rejects Israel's existence, with the declared
goal of deterring gunmen in the coastal enclave from launching
rockets that have plagued its southern communities for years.
The Jewish state has since launched more than 950 air
strikes on the coastal Palestinian territory, targeting weaponry
and flattening militant homes and headquarters.
The raids continued past midnight on Sunday, with warships
bombarding targets from the sea. And an air raid targeted a
building in Gaza City housing the offices of local Arab media,
wounding three journalists from al Quds television, a station
Israel sees as pro-Hamas, witnesses said.
Two other predawn attacks on houses in the Jebalya refugee
camp killed one child and wounded 12 other people, medical
These attacks followed a defiant statement by Hamas military
spokesman Abu Ubaida, who told a televised news conference.
"This round of confrontation will not be the last against
the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning."
The masked gunman dressed in military fatigues insisted that
despite Israel's blows Hamas "is still strong enough to destroy
An Israeli attack on Saturday destroyed the house of a Hamas
commander near the Egyptian border.
Casualties there were averted however, because Israel had
fired non-exploding missiles at the building beforehand from a
drone, which the militant's family understood as a warning to
flee, and thus their lives were spared, witnesses said.
Israeli aircraft also bombed Hamas government buildings in
Gaza on Saturday, including the offices of Prime Minister Ismail
Haniyeh and a police headquarters.
Among those killed in air strikes on Gaza on Saturday were
at least four suspected militants riding motorcycles, and
several civilians including a 30-year-old woman.
ISRAELI SCHOOLS SHUT
Israel said it would keep schools in its southern region
shut on Sunday as a precaution to avoid casualties from rocket
strikes reaching as far as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in the past
Israel's "Iron Dome" missile interceptor system destroyed in
mid-air a rocket fired by Gaza militants at Tel Aviv on
Saturday, where volleyball games on the beach front came to an
abrupt halt as air-raid sirens sounded.
Hamas' armed wing claimed responsibility for the attack on
Tel Aviv, the third against the city since Wednesday. It said it
had fired an Iranian-designed Fajr-5 at the coastal metropolis,
some 70 km (43 miles) north of Gaza.
In the Israeli Mediterranean port of Ashdod, a rocket ripped
into several balconies. Police said five people were hurt.
Israel's operation has drawn Western support for what U.S.
and European leaders have called Israel's right to self-defence,
but there was also a growing number of calls from world leaders
to seek an end to the violence.
British Prime Minister David Cameron "expressed concern over
the risk of the conflict escalating further and the danger of
further civilian casualties on both sides," in a conversation
with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a spokesperson
for Cameron said.
The United Kingdom was "putting pressure on both sides to
de-escalate," the spokesman said, adding that Cameron had urged
Netanyahu "to do everything possible to bring the conflict to an
Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President
Barack Obama, said the United States would like to see the
conflict resolved through "de-escalation" and diplomacy, but
also believes Israel has a right to self-defense.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo as his
security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders,
that "there are some indications that there is a possibility of
a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees."
Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel
and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.
A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions
would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying "there is hope," but
it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
In Jerusalem, an Israeli official declined to comment on the
negotiations. Military commanders said Israel was prepared to
fight on to achieve a goal of halting rocket fire from Gaza,
which has plagued Israeli towns since late 2000, when failed
peace talks led to the outbreak of a Palestinian uprising.
Diplomats at the United Nations said Secretary-General Ban
Ki-moon is expected to visit Israel and Egypt in the coming week
to push for an end to the fighting.
POSSIBLE GROUND OFFENSIVE
Israel, though, with tanks and artillery positioned along
the frontier, signalled it was still weighing a possible ground
offensive into Gaza.
Israeli cabinet ministers decided on Friday to more than
double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza
offensive to 75,000 and around 16,000 reservists have already
been called up.
Asked by reporters whether a ground operation was possible,
Major-General Tal Russo, commander of the Israeli forces on the
Gaza frontier, said: "Definitely."
"We have a plan. ... It will take time. We need to have
patience. It won't be a day or two," he added.
Another senior commander briefing reporters on condition of
anonymity said Israel had scored "good achievements" in striking
at nearly 1,000 targets, with the aim of ridding Hamas of
firepower imported from Libya, Sudan and Iran.
A possible move into the densely populated Gaza Strip and
the risk of major casualties it brings would be a significant
gamble for Netanyahu, favourite to win a January national
Hamas fighters are no match for the Israeli military. The
last Gaza war, involving a three-week Israeli air blitz and
ground invasion over the New Year's period of 2008-09, killed
over 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians. Thirteen Israelis
died in the conflict.
But the Gaza conflagration has stirred the pot of a Middle
East already boiling from two years of Arab revolution and a
civil war in Syria that threatens to spread beyond its borders.
One major change has been the election of an Islamist
government in Cairo that is allied with Hamas, potentially
narrowing Israel's manoeuvring room in confronting the
Palestinian group. Israel and Egypt made peace in 1979.