Gaza, Nov 20: Israel temporarily put on hold a decision on a possible ground invasion of Gaza to give more time to Egypt's truce efforts, but seven days of incessant raids took the Palestinian death toll to 111 amid warnings by Hamas that it won't succumb to Israeli conditions.
Israel's cabinet met late last night to discuss the latest ceasefire initiatives with Hamas, on the bloodiest day yet of the military offensive when over 30 Palestinians were killed in multiple strikes.
As UN chief Ban Ki-moon stepped into the Egypt-led efforts to strike a ceasefire, the Security Council wrangled over an Arab-proposed statement calling for Israel-Hamas hostilities to end, with Russia expressing frustration over the silence on the issue and blaming the US for blocking any action.
Early this morning, at least four people were injured when F-16 fighter jets hit the Islamic National Bank in Gaza City, which is located in a residential area, Al Jazeera reported.
At a late night cabinet meeting, the Israeli government agreed to briefly hold off sending ground forces into Gaza to see how the ceasefire efforts in Cairo turn out, according to Jerusalem Post.
This makes today's round of talks in Cairo very crucial to the situation and if a tangible solution is not arrived at by the end of the day, Israel would then decide on a ground assault.
While several Western nations have supported Israel's military offensive and its "right to defense", they have warned against launching a ground invasion of Gaza enclave.
Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, the controlling authority of Gaza, said Hamas was aware that Israel is "capable" of an invasion, but warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that such a move would not "be a picnic, but a political disaster".
Speaking at a press conference in Cairo yesterday, Meshaal said Hamas was willing for a truce but the Israeli aggression and the continued economic blockade of Gaza should end.
"Whoever started the war must end it," he said, insisting that Hamas would not yield to Israeli conditions on a ceasefire.
UN Secretary-General Ban, who arrived in Cairo yesterday for talks, will travel to Jerusalem today to lend his weight to calls for a "de-escalation" of hostilities.