World Bulletin/News Desk
Hamas on Monday gave Israel its conditions for a cease-fire, a general in Egyptian intelligence said.
A special Israeli delegation received the letter in Cairo from intelligence chief Mohamed Shehata.
No details of the conditions were immediately available, nor was there any immediate confirmation of the letter from Israel.
In addition to an end the airstrikes, senior Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said Hamas is demanding the end to Israel's long blockade of Gaza.
The territory has been under a crippling economic embargo since Hamas won control of the territory from the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank.
Hamas also wants Israel to stop targeting the leadership of Palestinian factions and to expand the waters Palestinian fishermen are allowed to trawl from three miles offshore to 30, said Shaath, who is also a Fatah leader.
Israel, meanwhile, has demanded an end to the rocket attacks.
Israel bombed dozens of targets in Gaza on Monday and said that while it was prepared to step up its offensive by sending in troops, it preferred a diplomatic solution that would end Palestinian rocket fire from the enclave.
As international pressure mounted for a truce, mediator Egypt said a deal to end the fighting could be close.
Twelve Palestinian civilians and four fighters were killed in the air strikes, bringing the Gaza death toll since fighting began on Wednesday to 90, more than half of them non-combatants, local officials said. Three Israeli civilians have been killed.
Israel's military did not immediately comment on a report in the liberal Haaretz newspaper that it had mistakenly fired on the Dalu family home, where the dead spanned four generations, while trying to kill a Hamas rocketry chief.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Cairo to weigh in on ceasefire efforts led by Egypt.
Israeli media said a delegation from Israel had also been to Cairo for the truce talks. A spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government declined comment on the matter.
"Israel is prepared and has taken steps, and is ready for a ground incursion which will deal severely with the Hamas military machine," a senior official close to Netanyahu told Reuters.
But he added: "We would prefer to see a diplomatic solution that would guarantee the peace for Israel's population in the south. If that is possible, then a ground operation would no longer be required. If diplomacy fails, we may well have no alternative but to send in ground forces."
The official's language echoed that of U.S. President Barack Obama, who said on Sunday it would be "preferable" to avoid a move into Gaza. Obama also said Israel had a right to self-defence and no country would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens.
Egyptian negotiators could be close to achieving a deal between Israel and the Palestinians to stop the fighting could be close, the Egyptian prime minister said.
"I think we are close, but the nature of this kind of negotiation, (means) it is very difficult to predict," Hisham Kandil said in an interview in Cairo for the Reuters Middle East Investment Summit.
Egypt's foreign minister is expected to visit Gaza on Tuesday with a delegation of Arab ministers to express solidarity with the Palestinians.
Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel "stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza".
Listing Israel's terms, Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon wrote on Twitter: "If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack."
Before leaving for Cairo, Ban urged Israel and the Palestinians to cooperate with all Egyptian-led efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire.
Although 84 percent of Israelis supported the current Gaza assault, according to a Haaretz poll, only 30 percent wanted an invasion. Nineteen percent wanted their government to work on securing a truce soon.
Last Mod: 19 Kasım 2012, 15:40