GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — An Israeli missile flattened a two-story house in a residential neighborhood of Gaza City yesterday, killing at least 11 civilians, mostly women and children, Palestinian medical officials said, as Israel expanded a military offensive to target homes of wanted militants.
The attack, which Israel said targeted a militant, was the single deadliest incident of the five-day-old Israeli operation and hiked a toll Sunday that was already the highest number of civilians killed in one day, according to Gaza medics. The bloodshed is likely to raise international pressure for a cease-fire, with Egypt taking the leading role in mediating between Israel and Hamas.
President Barack Obama said he had been in touch with the leaders of Israel, Egypt, and Turkey in an effort to halt the fighting. “We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours,” he said.
Obama cautioned against a potential Israeli ground invasion into Gaza, warning it could only deepen its death toll. At the same time, he blamed Palestinian militants for starting the round of fighting by raining rockets onto Israel, and he defended Israel’s right to defend itself.
“Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory,” Obama said in Thailand at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia.
An Israeli envoy arrived in Cairo on Sunday and held talks with Egyptian officials on a ceasefire, according to Egyptian security officials and Nabil Shaath, a top aide of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who was in the Egyptian capital.
But Israel and Gaza’s militant Hamas rulers remain far apart on any terms for a halt in the bloodshed, which has killed 70 Palestinians — including 36 civilians, according to Gaza health officials — and three Israeli civilians.