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Egyptian PM Arrives In Gaza; Israel Declares Brief Cease-fire

A member of Hamas security forces points to an unexploded missile (not seen) after an Israeli air strike on the building of the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza City.
A member of Hamas security forces points to an unexploded missile (not seen) after an Israeli air strike on the building of the Hamas Interior Ministry in Gaza City.

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Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil is promising to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a permanent truce in Gaza.

Qandil spoke to journalists during a brief visit to the Palestinian territory on November 16.

"Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce," he said.

Ahead of Qandil's arrival, Israel said it would halt its military operation against militants in the territory governed by the Islamic group Hamas for the duration of the visit.

An Israeli government spokesman says militants are continuing to fire rockets into the Jewish state, despite the Israeli cease-fire. Israeli police said a Palestinian rocket fired from Gaza landed in the Mediterranean near Tel-Aviv on November 16.

Israel denied Palestinian accusations that it continued its attacks during the cease-fire.  

Israeli warplanes carried out hundreds of strikes on Gaza targets overnight. The Israeli Army has started calling up 16,000 reservists, amid reports of a possible ground offensive.

At least 18 Palestinians, including some children, have reportedly been killed since November 14. Three Israelis also died on November 15 in a rocket attack that hit their apartment building.

World leaders are reacting to the escalation of violence in Gaza and Israel. European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton expressed deep concern over the loss of civilian lives.  

Ashton said the rocket attacks by Hamas and other factions in Gaza are "totally unacceptable" and must stop. She said Israel has the right to protect is population from such attacks. Ashton called on Israel to ensure that its response was proportionate. 

Violence Escalates In Gaza i
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November 16, 2012
Israeli warplanes carried out hundreds of strikes on Gaza targets overnight and several houses in Israel were hit by rockets fired from Gaza. In the Israeli border town of Reim, people gathered in shelters to seek protection. The latest upsurge in the long-running Israel-Palestine conflict came after Israel killed Hamas's military commander, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, in a precision air strike on his car.
WATCH: Violence Escalates In Gaza

A spokesman for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Hamas was responsible for the outbreak of the violence.  

In a news briefing in Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States has urged Egypt to use its influence in the region to help stop the violence.  

"Let me be very clear. Israel has a right to self-defense," he said. "As of yesterday, I believe, the Israeli government noted that since the beginning of 2012, more than 768 rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza and over 12,000 in the past 12 years, and I believe over 100 today alone. They have a right to self-defense."

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay denounced both the Israeli aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip and the rockets fired by Hamas militants into Israel. She called on both sides to step back from the brink.

With reporting from Reuters, AP, dpa, and AFP

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