* U.N. chief to push ceasefire mediation in Cairo on Monday
* Gaza death toll reaches 80; lull in rockets launched at
* Israel, Gaza each expect the other to be first to hold
By Nidal al-Mughrabi and Dan Williams
GAZA/JERUSALEM, Nov 19 Israel bombed dozens of
suspected guerrilla sites in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on
Monday and Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave dropped off
as international efforts to broker a truce intensified.
Ten civilians and two field commanders from the Islamic
Jihad faction were killed and at least 30 other Palestinians
were hurt in the new air strikes, hospital officials said,
bringing the death toll from six days of clashes in Gaza to 85.
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to
arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt,
which borders both Israel and Gaza and whose Islamist-rooted
government has been hosting leaders of Hamas.
Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to
Cairo for truce talks, though a spokesman for Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's government declined comment on the matter.
The Gaza flare-up, and Israel's signalling that it could
soon escalate from the aerial bombings to a ground sweep of the
cramped and impoverished enclave, have stoked the worries of
world powers watching an already combustible region.
As Hamas and other Islamist factions spurn permanent peace
with the Jewish state, mediated deals for each to hold fire
unilaterally have been the only formula for stemming bloodshed
in the past. But each side now placed the onus on the other.
Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal,
wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after
Israel "stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted
assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza".
Listing Israel's terms, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon
wrote on Twitter: "If there is quiet in the south and no rockets
and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist
attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack."
Yaalon also said Israel wanted an end to Gaza guerrilla
activity in the neighbouring Egyptian Sinai, a desert peninsula
where lawlessness has spread during Cairo's political crises.
Israel's operation has so far drawn Western support for what
U.S. and European leaders have called its right to self-defence
in the face of years of cross-border attacks, but there have
also been growing appeals for an end to the hostilities.
Sympathy for Israel may wear thin as the Gaza toll mounts.
On Sunday, 11 Palestinian civilians were apparently killed
during an Israeli attack on a militant which brought a
three-storey family home crashing down on them.
"I am deeply saddened by the reported deaths of more than
ten members of the Dalu family... (and) by the continuing firing
of rockets against Israeli towns, which have killed several
Israeli civilians. I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with
all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire," Ban
said before leaving for Egypt. He visits Israel on Tuesday.
At least 22 of the Gaza fatalities have been children.
Netanyahu said he had assured world leaders that Israel was
doing its utmost to avoid causing civilian casualties in Gaza.
In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter invasion of
Gaza, tanks, artillery and infantry have massed in field
encampments along the sandy, fenced-off border and military
convoys moved on roads in the area. Israel has also authorised
the call-up of 75,000 military reservists, so far mobilising
around half that number.
A big, bloody rocket strike on Israelis might be enough for
Netanyahu to give a green light for a ground offensive.
Three Israelis have been killed and dozens wounded in
hundreds of salvoes since Wednesday. Some rockets reached as far
as Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial capital, but were shot down by
the country's air defence system.
As a precaution against the rocket interceptions endangering
nearby Ben-Gurion International Airport, civil aviation
authorities said on Monday new flight paths were being used.
There was no indication takeoffs and landings at Ben-Gurion had
There was no rocket fire from Gaza between midnight and
daybreak on Monday, the Israeli military said. It said a few
cross-border launches followed in the early morning but there
was no immediate word of casualties in southern Israel, where
such salvoes usually set off sirens so residents can shelter.
Israel bombed some 80 sites in Gaza overnight, the military
said, adding in a statement that targets included "under-ground
rocket launching sites, terror tunnels and training bases" as
well as "buildings owned by senior terrorist operatives".
Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and force
Hamas to stop rocket fire that has bedevilled Israeli border
towns for years. The rockets now have greater range, putting Tel
Aviv and Jerusalem within their reach - a strategic weapon for
Gaza's otherwise massively outgunned guerrillas.
The southern resort city of Eilat was apparently added to
the list of targets when residents said they heard explosions on
Sunday and Monday thought to be rockets, though there was no
word of casualties or damage.
Eilat is thought to be well out of the range of any rocket
in possession of Hamas or any other Gaza group. But militants
have in the recent past fired rockets at Eilat and its
surroundings, using Egypt's Sinai desert as a launch site.
Hamas and other groups in Gaza are sworn enemies of the
Jewish state which they refuse to recognise and seek to
eradicate, claiming all Israeli territory as rightfully theirs.
Hamas won legislative elections in the Palestinian
Territories in 2006 but a year later, after the collapse of a
unity government under President Mahmoud Abbas the Islamist
group seized control of Gaza in a brief and bloody civil war
with forces loyal to Abbas.
Abbas then dismissed the Hamas government led by the group's
leader Ismail Haniyeh but he refuses to recognise Abbas'
authority and runs Gazan affairs.
While it is denounced as a terrorist organisation in the
West, Hamas enjoys widespread support in the Arab world, where
Islamist parties are on the rise.
U.S.-backed Abbas and Fatah hold sway in the
Israeli-occupied West Bank from their seat of government in the
town of Ramallah. The Palestinians seek to establish an
independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip with East
Jerusalem as its capital.