Naser Najjar and Ruby Russell, Special for USA TODAY
November 18. 2012 - GAZA CITY - An Israeli envoy was in Cairo on Sunday for talks on a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas militants in Gaza as both sides kept up a barrage of attacks.
Palestinians in Gaza continued to fire rockets into Israel, and Israeli jets pounded homes and installations of targeted militants.
People in southern Israel ran for cover throughout the day and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Sunday that a ground invasion was possible if the rocket volleys did not cease. He said airstrikes had taken out rocket batteries and terrorist installations, and was widened Sunday to include individual members of Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza.
Palestinians on Sunday held funerals for members of Hamas and for civilians killed in the Israeli airstrikes. One bomb hit a building Sunday, killing 11 people, said Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra.
Two new long-range rockets were fired at Tel Aviv on Sunday, but no injuries were reported.
"If we don't achieve our goals from the air, we will have to enter by ground,'' Israeli Defense Ministry director Udi Shani told Israeli Army Radio. ''I hope in the coming days it will be decided.''
In Egypt, a senior Israeli official arrived at the airport and was taken to talks with Egyptian authorities, Egyptian security officials told the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press. They did not identify the Israeli official.
Hamas' prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, said Hamas it would end its barrage of rockets that it began a week ago if it is guaranteed that targeted assassinations of its leaders will stop and that border crossings policed by Egypt and Israel reopened, Egypt news media reported. Israel has said a cease-fire can happen only if Hamas ends its attacks.
Palestinians in the Gaza Strip fired more than 30 rockets toward a number of Israeli cities Sunday, adding to the roughly 500 it has fired since last weekend. Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system has intercepted about a third of the rockets.The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) said it hit 70 targets in Gaza on Sunday, striking more than a dozen homes of Hamas terrorists and two media officials.
President Obama, in Bangkok on a trip through Asia, said Sunday that Israel has "every right" to defend itself against rockets from inside Gaza. But he cautioned that a ground offensive could harm peace efforts with the Palestinians.
"Let's understand what the precipitating event here that's causing the current crisis and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated, and there's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," Obama said at news conference in Thailand.
Hamas is a designated terrorist entity by the United States and European Union, and Obama urged Egypt and Turkey -- countries that have backed Hamas -- to urge the Palestinians to end the violence.
"Those who champion the cause of Palestinians should recognize that if we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza then the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track ... is going to be pushed off way into the future," he said.
Among the victims of the Israeli airstrike in Gaza that killed 11 people were five women, including one 80-year-old, and four small children, al-Kidra said. The claim could not be verified.
The Israeli military said the target of the attack was a rocket mastermind of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group that has conducted many attacks against Israel. The deaths brought to 66 the number of Palestinians killed in the Israeli offensive, including 32 civilians, said al-Kidra.
Israel has said that Hamas bears responsibility for inadvertent civilian deaths for placing rocket batteries and depots in residential areas and because Hamas terrorists are using homes for their operations. The IDF said it is trying to minimize civilian casualties, but that Hamas is intentionally targeting civilians in Israel.
Three Israelis were killed last week from a rocket that slammed into their home.
In Gaza City on Sunday, streets were filled with men and thousands of children attending the funerals of the recently killed. Women, who cannot attend the mosque, looked on from windows and balconies above the streets.
Every neighborhood showed signs of Israeli missile strikes. Hamas flags that have appeared everywhere in the last few days provided the only bright color on gray, dust-covered buildings.
A strike Sunday on a three-story home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya killed a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy from the same family. Hamas security officials said three missiles struck the house, owned by a family that has members who are involved in militants' rocket squads. It was not known if any militants were in or near the house at the time of the strike.
Another strike in the city brought down a home near a Hamas police station in the Tufah neighborhood. Rescue workers pulled out the body of a dead woman, along with several surviving members of her family.
In the Shatire fugee camp near Gaza City, a missile struck the car of a Hamas militant outside his home, killing him and an 11-year-old girl passing by at the time, al-Kidra said.
In Israel, one rocket damaged a home in the southern city of Ashkelon, punching a hole in the ceiling. Israel's "Iron Dome" rocket-defense system shot down seven rockets, including the one aimed at Tel Aviv, police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said. Eight Israelis were wounded by shrapnel Sunday.
Israel's Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said Sunday the military had been ordered to go after Hamas commanders, in addition to rocket squads.
"I imagine in the next few hours, we will see ongoing targeted attacks on gunmen and Hamas commanders," Mordechai told Army Radio. "More targeted, more surgical and more deadly."
The strikes included hits on the top floor offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to Hamas. Six Palestinian journalists were wounded, including one who lost a leg, a Gaza press association said.
Foreign broadcasters, including British, German and Italian TV outlets, also had offices in the high-rise. Building windows were blown out and glass shards and debris were scattered on the street below. Some of the journalists who had been inside the building at the time took cover in the entrance hallway.
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said the strikes targeted Hamas communications equipment on the building's rooftop. She accused the group of using journalists as "human shields," and urged journalists to stay clear of Hamas bases and facilities.
Leibovich said the military has identified "hundreds" of additional targets as it pressed forward. She acknowledged that civilians were in danger, but said that Gaza militant groups bore the blame.
"One of the strategies of Hamas, not only Hamas, but Islamic Jihad as well, is locating large amounts of munitions underneath civilian homes. Many times this is the reason for this big damage or collateral damage," she said.
Netanyahu said at his Sunday Cabinet meeting broadcast on Israeli news media that the IDF has struck "1,000 terrorist targets" and that Israel "is prepared to expand its operations in Gaza."
Netanyahu said the air force's airstrikes have hurt Hamas' ability to launch rockets against Israel. Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the IDF is "primed and ready to do whatever it takes to remove the (rockets) threat, strengthen Israeli deterrence and hit Hamas and the Islamic Jihad hard."
The repeated militant rocket fire on Tel Aviv and Friday's attack toward Jerusalem have significantly escalated the hostilities by widening the militants' rocket range and putting 3.5 million Israelis, or half the country's population, within reach. The attempt to strike Jerusalem also has symbolic resonance because both Israel and the Palestinians claim the holy city for a capital.
Israeli radio stations repeatedly interrupted their broadcasts to air "Code Red"alerts warning of impending rocket strikes.
Yitzak Bazal, a 57-year-old taxi driver in Beersheva, had a passenger in his car as the sirens began wailing. He stayed close to his taxi as his fare disappeared in search of safety.
"I wish we could have a cease-fire but not one that's going to land us back in the shelters in a month or two," he said.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi continued to host talks with Hamas as well as leaders from Hamas allies Turkey and Qatar. He also held contacts with Western leaders.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius visited Israel on Sunday to offer his country's help toward forging an "immediate cease-fire," the French government said.
Meeting with Fabius, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman thanked him for "France's efforts to prevent casualties" but said "the moment that all the terror organizations announce a cease-fire, we can consider all the ideas that French foreign minister and other friends are raising."
Several buses carrying Egyptian activists traveled to the Gaza-Egypt border Sunday to show solidarity with their Palestinians neighbors.
"We have some medical aid and student doctors, and a lot of people full of love and solidarity for Gaza" read a Tweet by activist Gigi Ibrahim, headed north on Sunday in attempt to cross the border.
But the mood in Egypt was generally calm as the nation continued to face a slew of domestic concerns.
"I don't think Israeli is just defending itself," said Mina Thabet, a Christian activist in Cairo. "It's always attacking."
"I don't like Israel," Thabet said. "We have blood between us and Israel. I don't forget that they have taken our land before. I don't forget that they did this."