Four children killed on Saturday as tensions escalate
At least 24 Palestinians have been killed and more than 200 wounded after Israeli airstrikes pounded Gaza for a second day.
Six people, including four children, died on Saturday after explosions shattered the narrow Gaza strip.
Palestinian militant group, Hamas, said the children were killed in an Israeli blast close to the Jabalya refugee camp.
However, the Israeli military denied responsibility, claiming a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch caused the explosion.
The recent bloodshed began on Friday after Israel targeted the senior commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Its airstrikes continued through the night and killed a number of civilians, including a five-year-old girl who died alongside her cousin.
At least 24 Palestinians, including six children, have been killed and 203 wounded during the two days of firing, according to the Gaza health ministry.
Palestinian militants reportedly fired back with over 400 rockets, though Israel said most of them were intercepted.
While some rockets were fired as far as Tel Aviv, the Israeli ambulance service confirmed there were no reports of serious injuries.
Israel has insisted that it is attacking weapon depots that are hidden in residential areas, destroying houses as a consequence. Its military said it had apprehended 19 more members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad on Saturday.
Egypt said it was engaged in intensive talks to calm the situation. Further escalation would largely depend on whether Hamas would opt to join the fighting alongside the smaller Islamic Jihad group.
An Egyptian intelligence delegation headed by Maj Gen Ahmed Abdelkhaliq arrived in Israel on Saturday and would be travelling to Gaza for mediation talks, two Egyptian security sources said. They were hoping to secure a day’s ceasefire in order to carry out the talks, the sources added.
“Intensive efforts have been made this evening and the movement listened to the mediators, but these efforts haven’t reached an agreement yet,” an Islamic Jihad official said.
Israel stopped the planned transport of fuel into Gaza shortly before it struck on Friday, crippling the territory’s lone power plant and reducing electricity to around eight hours per day and drawing warnings from health officials that hospitals would be severely impacted within days.
The frontier had been largely quiet since May last year, when 11 days of fierce fighting between Israel and militants left at least 250 in Gaza and 13 in Israel dead.
UN and European Union mideast envoys expressed concern about the violence and the Western-backed Palestinian Authority condemned Israel’s attacks.
Meanwhile, the United States said it supported Israel’s right to defend itself but urged all sides to avoid further escalation.
Around 2.3 million Palestinians are packed into the narrow coastal Gaza Strip, with Israel and Egypt tightly restricting movement of people and goods in and out of the enclave and imposing a naval blockade, citing security concerns.