Foreign Ministers of Arab League countries will gather on Saturday in Cairo for an emergency meeting to outline a consolidated position on the ongoing Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.
Israel launched Operation Pillar of Defense on Wednesday, killing Hamas’ military chief Ahmed al-Jabari and attacking hundreds of rocket-launching sites, ammunition depots and “terrorist” cells that belong to radical Islamist groups operating in Gaza, primarily Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Palestinian militants have fired more than 450 rockets at Israeli cities, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Palestinian medics say 13 militants and 16 civilians, including eight children and a pregnant woman, have been killed in the last three days by Israeli air strikes. Residents of the Hamas-controlled Palestinian enclave say the closure of many smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt has meant supplies are running low and power cuts are frequent.
News of the first Israeli casualties was reported on Thursday: three people were killed when a rocket launched from Gaza struck their house in the southern Israeli city of Kiryat Malachi.
In a sign of further escalation, the Israeli Cabinet has authorized the military to mobilize up to 75,000 reservists in anticipation of a possible ground offensive on Gaza. Two elite army brigades have completed the preparation to enter the Palestinian enclave “if necessary,” according to the military.
Meanwhile, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has warned Israel against the continuation of its military operation in Gaza, saying Tel Aviv will have to pay “a heavy price.” Morsi has earlier recalled Egyptian ambassador from Israel in response to what he described as “brutal” Israeli assault.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed on Friday to both sides of the conflict “to stop this dangerous escalation and restore calm.” He also announced through his spokesman that he intended to visit the region shortly.