Fighting raged on both sides of Gaza's borders Wednesday despite intensified efforts across the region to thrash out a truce to end a week of violence that has cost 136 Palestinian and five Israeli lives.
The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations on Tuesday put the death toll at more than 140 and more than 950 injured in the Israeli offensive on Gaza.
Diplomatic efforts have involved U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi but a deal to end Israel's offensive on rocket-firing militants in the Gaza Strip remains elusive.
The Israeli military said that during the night it had targeted more than 100 sites across the Gaza Strip, about half of them underground rocket launchers, as well as the internal security ministry and a police compound.
A Hamas official said on Tuesday that Egyptian efforts to broker a truce with Israel had been held up because the Israeli government had yet to respond to proposals, indicating there would be no ceasefire until Wednesday at the earliest.
“The Israeli side has not responded yet, so we will not hold a (news) conference this evening and must wait until tomorrow,” Ezzat al-Rishq, a senior Hamas leader, told Reuters. “The truce is now held up because we are waiting for the Israeli side to respond,” he added in a short telephone interview.
Previously, Hamas official Ayman Taha said Israel and Palestinians from the Gaza Strip have agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that will come into force at midnight local (2200 GMT).
"An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9.00 p.m. and go into effect at midnight," Taha said.
While Hamas earlier indicated that a truce could start later Tuesday, there was no confirmation from the Israeli side. But Israel said it will put a “temporary hold” on Gaza ground operation.
An army spokesman told AFP that since midnight four rockets fired from Gaza had hit southern Israel and a further two were intercepted midair.
The army confirmed its first fatality from rocket attacks on Tuesday, and a civilian contractor working for the defense ministry was also killed, as a longer-range missile landed near Jerusalem and one hit a building in metropolitan Tel Aviv.
Israel's offensive, launched on Nov.14 with the targeted killing of a Hamas military chief, claimed the lives of 26 more Palestinians Tuesday and saw an air strike on an eight story building housing AFP's Gaza City offices, causing no injuries.
Clinton, who flew in Tuesday night for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Clinton, said that Washington's commitment to Israeli security was "rock solid and unwavering."
But she also stressed that this "is why we believe it is essential to de-escalate the situation" in the Palestinian territory.
And she indicated a truce announcement may not emerge until after she completes visits to the West Bank capital of Ramallah and Cairo for talks with Egypt's President Mursi.
"In these days ahead, the United States will work with our partners here in Israel and across the region for an outcome that bolsters security for the peace of Israel, improves conditions for the people of Gaza and moves toward a comprehensive peace for all people of the region," said Clinton.
Militant sources in Gaza had initially said a deal could be announced in Cairo on Tuesday night following days of Egyptian-brokered negotiations between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers.
But Hamas officials said the indirect negotiations were ongoing, as an Egyptian official told AFP in Cairo that "the truce announcement is not expected tonight because we are still waiting for a response" from the Jewish state.
An Israeli diplomatic source told AFP that negotiations were ongoing.
"We are working very hard using our diplomatic channels. We are working continuously. But I cannot give you an estimated time of arrival," at such an agreement, he said.