Israel killed a senior Hamas leader in an air attack on his home on Thursday, the most senior Hamas official, since Israeli began Gaza bombardments that has claimed more than 400 Palestinian lives.
Medical officials, confirming Nizar Rayyan's death, said another nine people, including members of Rayyan's family, were killed in the bombing in Jabalya refugee camp.
Rayyan had allegedly refused to take security precautions despite Hamas figures being at risk of assassination.
Rayyan had a PhD in Islamic studies and lectured at the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip.
"The blood of Sheikh Nizar Rayyan and the blood of other martyrs will never be wasted and the enemy will pay a heavy price for the crimes it committed," said Hamas official Ayman Taha.
Israeli forces remained poised on the Gaza frontier in preparation for a possible ground invasion as international calls for an immediate ceasefire mounted.
On the sixth day of bombardments, Israeli aircraft and naval forces attacked about 20 places in the Gaza Strip, including a government complex, the Israeli military said.
But Palestinian medical officials said three civilians were killed in those air strikes and 100 people wounded.
UN fails again
The Czech prime minister, who holds the European Union presidency, said he was planning to organise a diplomatic mission on behalf of the bloc to the Middle East to address the conflict there.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said Israeli attacks must stop before any truce proposals could be considered. Israel must also lift its economic blockade of Gaza and open border crossings.
With international pressure mounting on both sides to agree a ceasefire, the UN security council failed to agree on the wording of a draft resolution to end the violence at an emergency meeting held late on Wednesday in New York.
The special session of the security council followed calls from Arab countries for an urgent resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, and warnings from aid agencies that the people of Gaza are facing a humanitarian catastrophe.
The attempt to draft a resolution failed after the US and the UK requested that the document should be amended to mention Hamas rocket attacks against Israel.
With food and fuel also running dangerously low in the blockaded Strip, aid agencies and the UN itself has warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.
The UN food distribution centre in Gaza, which has been closed for two weeks because of a shortage of supplies after Israel stepped up its blockade of the Strip, is expected to open on Thursday.
"There is a great security threat to their (UN) staff and they are driving the staff to work in armoured vehicles because they now how random the Israeli attacks are," said Mohyeldin.
Last Mod: 01 Ocak 2009, 17:25