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Firefighters on the move in Israel.

GAZA — Egypt tried to open a tiny window to emergency peace diplomacy in Gaza today, but hopes for even a brief cease fire while its prime minister was inside the bombarded enclave to talk to leaders of the Islamist Hamas movement were immediately dashed.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited the Gaza Strip officially to show solidarity with the Palestinian people after two days of relentless attacks by Israeli warplanes determined to end militant rocket fire at Israel.

A Palestinian official close to Egypt’s mediators told Reuters Kandil’s visit “was the beginning of a process to explore the possibility of reaching a truce. It is early to speak of any details or of how things will evolve”.

Israel undertook to cease fire during the visit if Hamas did too. But it said rockets fired from Gaza hit several sites in southern Israel as he was in the enclave and has begun drafting 16,000 reserve troops, a possible precursor to invasion.

Tanks and self-propelled guns were seen near the border area today and sirens sounded again over Tel Aviv, after witnesses in Gaza saw a long-range rocket launched. Israeli police said it landed in the sea off Israel’s commercial centre.

A Hamas source said the Israeli air force launched an attack on the house of Hamas’s commander for southern Gaza which resulted in the death of two civilians, one a child.

Israel’s military strongly denied carrying out any attack from the time Kandil entered Gaza, and accused Hamas of violating the three-hour deal.

“Even though about 50 rockets have fallen in Israel over the past two hours, we chose not to attack in Gaza due to the visit of the Egyptian prime minister. Hamas is lying and reporting otherwise,” the army said in a Twitter message.

Kandil said: “Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce.”

At a Gaza hospital he held the bloodied body of a child. He left the Gaza Strip after meeting with Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, the enclave’s prime minister. (Reuters)

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