An Israeli strike on a Gaza City high-rise today has killed one of the top militant leaders of Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian militant group said.
The second strike in two days on the downtown Gaza City building that houses the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, has killed Ramez Harb, who is a leading figure in Al Quds Brigades militant wing, according to a text message Islamic Jihad sent to reporters.
Witnesses told the AP that the Israeli airstrike, part of a widening effort to suppress Hamas rocket fire into Israel, struck the building Monday afternoon, and ambulances quickly rushed to the scene. Paramedics told the AP that one person was killed and several wounded.
It is also the second high profile commander taken out in the Israeli offensive, which began six days with a missile strike that killed Ahmed Jibari, Hamas' top military commander.
Today mourners buried the 11 victims of an Israeli air strike on Sunday, the single deadliest incident since the escalation between Hamas and Israel began Wednesday. Among the dead were nine members of the Daloo family, killed when an Israeli warplane targeted their home in Gaza City while trying to kill a Hamas rocket maker, whose fate is unknown.
Palestinian deaths climbed to 96 Monday when four more, including two children, were killed in a strike on a sports stadium the Israel Defense Forces said was being used to launch rockets. Gaza health officials said half of those killed were children, women or elderly men.
With the death toll rising, Egypt accelerated efforts to broker a cease-fire, but so far the two sides are far apart. Egypt is being supported by Qatar and Turkey in its peacemaking mission and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is scheduled to arrive at the talks later today.
Israel carried out 80 air strikes this morning, down from previous morning totals. There were 75 militant rocket launches, the Israeli military said, also a relatively low tally. The Israel Defense Forces said that since Wednesday, around 1,100 strikes had been carried out in Gaza while militants have launched about 1,000 rockets towards Israel. Three Israeli civilians died from militant rocket fire in one attack Thursday and dozens have been wounded.
Sunday proved to be one the deadliest days of what Israel has called "Operation Pillar of Defense" with at least 23 Palestinians reported killed. Of those, at least 14 were women and children, according to a Gaza health official. The Israel Defense Forces told ABC News it was targeting Hamas rocket maker Yehiya Bia, who lives near the Daloo family in a densely populated Gaza neighborhood and has not been accounted for.
Israel shifted its tactics this weekend from striking rocket arsenals and firing positions to targeting the homes of senior Hamas commanders and the offices of Hamas politicians in Gaza. Doing so brought the violence into Gaza's most densely populated areas. Israel hit two high-rise buildings Sunday that house the offices of Hamas and international media outlets, injuring at least six journalists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will discuss the crisis with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Tuesday on the sidelines of the Asean meeting in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, took to the Jerusalem Post op-ed page today to call for Israel to "flatten all of Gaza."
"There is no middle path here, either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip," he wrote. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held cabinet meetings in Jerusalem Sunday, saying, Israel is "prepared to significantly expand the operation."
While speaking in Bangkok, President Obama Sunday said he was in touch with players across the region in hopes of halting the fighting. While defending Israel's right to defend itself against the rocket fire, he also warned of the risks the Jewish state would take if it were to expand its air assault into a ground war.
"If we see a further escalation of the situation in Gaza, the likelihood of us getting back on any kind of peace track that leads to a two-state solution is going to be pushed off way into the future," Obama said.