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Israel suspends fire ahead of Kandil's Gaza visit

Israel is said to hold its fire during Egyptian Prime Minister’s visit to the Gaza Strip on Friday.

Palestinians extinguish a fire after Israeli air strikes targeted an electricity generator that fed the house of Hamas's Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in Gaza City, on November 15, 2012. As Palestinian deaths from relentless air strikes on Gaza rose to 16 today, militants defied a major Israeli bombing campaign across Gaza, firing off volleys of rockets which killed three Israelis and sparked panic in Tel Aviv. Picture: AFP.

GAZA - Israel will suspend military action in the Gaza Strip on Friday during a short visit to the Palestinian territory by Egypt's prime minister, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

In an unprecedented display of solidarity with Hamas militants embroiled in a conflict that risks spiralling into all-out war, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil will spend three hours in the enclave.

Sources said he would explore the possibility of brokering a ceasefire amid news that Israel was calling up thousands of reservists ahead of a possible ground invasion.

Netanyahu agreed to an Egyptian request to "cease all offensive operations" during the visit, a senior government official said, on the condition Hamas held its fire.

On Thursday evening, two rockets from Gaza crashed near Tel Aviv in the first such attack on Israel's commercial capital in 20 years. One fell into the Mediterranean Sea and the other in an uninhabited part of one of a suburb south of the city.

Two days of Israeli air strikes have killed 19 Palestinians, including seven militants and 12 civilians, among them six children and a pregnant woman. A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis in the town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday morning.

The latest upsurge in the long-running conflict came on Wednesday when Israel killed Hamas' military mastermind, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, in a precision air strike on his car. Israel then began shelling the coastal enclave from land, air and sea.

Israel says its offensive responded to increasing missile salvoes from Gaza. Its bombing has not yet reached the saturation level seen before it last invaded Gaza in 2008, but Israeli officials have said a ground assault remains possible.

The Gaza conflagration has stoked the flames of a Middle East ablaze with two years of Arab popular revolution and a civil war in Syria that threatens to spread farther afield.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza City, rattling tall buildings. In a hint of escalation, the spokesman for Israel's military said it had received the green light to call in up to 30,000 reserve troops.

Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, viewed by Hamas as a protector, led a chorus of denunciation of the Israeli strikes by allies of the Palestinians.

Mursi faces domestic pressure to act tough. But Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in US military aid and looks to Washington for help with its ailing economy, constraining Mursi despite his need to show Egyptians that his policies differ from those of his US-backed predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

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