Gaza crisis: Egyptians back under-fire Palestinians

Israeli strikes 'spread fear and panic'

Egyptian leaders have promised to support Gaza against Israeli attacks, as violence escalated for a third day.

President Mohammed Mursi said he would not leave Gaza on its own and condemned Israel's "blatant aggression", hours after his prime minister visited Gaza.

Israel mounted a huge attack overnight, targeting dozens of locations.

Sirens sounded in Jerusalem for the first time as militants said they had launched a rocket - hours after Tel Aviv was targeted with no casualties.

Twenty Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed since Wednesday.

Militants and civilians, including at least five children, were among the Palestinian dead, Palestinian officials said.

They include Hamas's military leader Ahmed Jabari, killed by an Israeli air strike on Wednesday following a surge in rocket attacks from Gaza.

Lieutenant Colonel Avital Leibovich told the BBC's Ben Brown, in Ashkelon: "We are here to defend our country"

Two Israeli women and a man died when a rocket fired from Gaza hit a building in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday, Israeli officials said.

Before the recent upsurge, Israel had repeatedly carried out air strikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fired rockets across the border.

Powerful missiles

At the scene

Even as Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil was making the briefest of visits to Gaza, a truce arranged to cover the duration of his stay collapsed.

Both sides accused each other of firing rockets or missiles.

Neither Israel nor Hamas have indicated that they are persuaded to pursue a longer, more permanent cease-fire.

All day long, Palestinian militants have fired rockets and Israeli aircraft have continued to pound the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army began an initial draft of 16,000 reservists on Friday, after the government authorised the call-up of 30,000.

Rumours have been swirling that a ground attack is imminent, but Israeli officials have said no decision has yet been made.

Israel targeted more than 130 locations in an overnight assault it said was aimed at knocking out rocket-firing facilities.

Sporadic Israeli air strikes have continued throughout Friday, and militants in Gaza have fired dozens of rockets.

Mr Mursi sent Prime Minister Hisham Qandil to the territory for a three-hour visit on Friday to show solidarity with the Palestinians.

"Egypt will not leave Gaza on its own, and what is happening is a blatant aggression against humanity," the president said shortly after Mr Qandil returned from Gaza.

Ties between Hamas and Egypt have strengthened since Mr Mursi's election earlier this year.

Hamas was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mr Mursi belongs.

Panic in Tel Aviv

Your stories: Israel and Gaza

Women cry at a funeral in Beit Hanoun, Gaza, and Israelis in a bomb shelter in Ofakim - Courtesy AFP news agency.

Start Quote

When the F16s fly low, it's like a monster chasing its victim”

End Quote Muhammad Abu Shaban, Gaza City

Start Quote

It was terrifying for my nieces and nephews”

End Quote Hen Kinan, Beersheba, Israel

Meanwhile, the Israeli city of Tel Aviv, some 75km (45 miles) north of Gaza, came under attack for a second day.

A missile launched from Gaza sparked panic in the city and air-raid sirens once again sounded.

The missile appears to have done no harm, with police officials quoted variously as saying it had landed in the sea or in an unpopulated area.

It is the first time Tel Aviv has come under attack since the 1991 Gulf War.

Analysts say it is the first time Gaza militants have deployed such powerful missiles.

An Israeli military spokesman said 550 missiles had been fired into Israel since Wednesday - 184 had been intercepted by its radar-protective system, Iron Dome.

The Israelis had hit more than 600 targets in Gaza, the spokesman said.

Western leaders have appealed for both sides to stop the escalation in violence.

Britain and Germany both said Hamas bears the brunt of the blame and should stop firing rockets immediately.

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Tel Aviv, Israel

An Israeli woman looks out from her apartment in a building damaged by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip in the southern city of Ashdod.

Panic as rocket targets Tel Aviv sending people fleeing for cover

Ashkelon, Israel

 An Israeli man looks out from an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel which officials say was hit by a rocket launched from the Gaza Strip.

Ashkelon bears the brunt of rocket attacks on Israel

Jabaliya refugee camp

A Palestinian man inspects the damage to a house, after an Israeli airstrike in Jabaliya north Gaza.

A man surveys the rubble of a house in Jabaliya refugee camp

Gaza City

Palestinians survey the damage done to Gaza's ministry of interior building following an Israeli air strike.

The homes of at least seven Hamas officials hit in Israeli attacks on Gaza City

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