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News

Death toll passes 100 on day six of Gaza conflict

An exiled leader of Hamas said Israel must take the first step if it wants a truce in the conflict in Gaza. Meanwhile, UN leader Ban ki-Moon has arrived in Cairo for talks with Egypt on brokering a peace deal.

Smoke rises after an Israeli forces strike in Gaza City, Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. The place was also struck on Sunday. The Palestinian civilian death toll mounted Monday as Israeli aircraft struck densely populated areas in the Gaza Strip in its campaign to quell militant rocket fire menacing nearly half of Israel's population. (Foto:Bernat Armangue/AP/dapd)

Gaza Israel Luftangriff Rauch Zerstörungen 19.11.12

The exiled leader of the Palestinian group Hamas, Khaled Meshaal, told a news conference in Cairo on Monday that Israel must take the first step towards a truce.

"Whoever started the war must end it," he said, adding that Hamas did not want an escalation or to draw Israel into a land invasion. But he said Israel had failed to achieve its objectives in Gaza. "The weapons of the resistance have caught the enemy off guard."

United Nations General Secretary Ban ki-Moon arrived in Cairo on Monday evening to meet with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. Egypt has been mediating talks with senior Hamas officials and Israel to end the violence.

"I strongly urge the parties to cooperate with all efforts led by Egypt to reach an immediate ceasefire," Ban had said before leaving New York for Cairo.

Also on Monday, an Israeli missile killed a senior Islamic Jihad militant in a strike on a Gaza City tower housing Palestinian and international media, the Israeli army and militants said.

At least 21 Palestinians were killed on Monday bringing the total to at least 100 Palestinian deaths since Israel launched their airstrike campaign last Wednesday. Three Israelis died last Thursday when a rocket hit their home.

An escalation of violence

As the death toll rises, so do fears that the conflict could escalate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that his country was prepared to "significantly expand" its military strikes on the Gaza Strip.

"We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations," Netanyahu said at the start of a meeting of his cabinet Sunday. "The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation."

Netanyahu's remarks came as thousands of Israeli troops gathered along the border with Gaza, prompting speculation that Israel was preparing to launch a ground operation. Up to 75,000 reserve troops have been approved for call-up to active duty if required.

The international community has largely responded to developments by urging for a truce.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle used an interview with public broadcaster ARD on Monday to describe an end to Hamas rocket fire into Israel as "the prerequisite" for a peace deal.

hc/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)