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Gaza: Egypt shows support of Hamas (+video)

Israel and Hamas are trading fire. Egypt's president, Mohamed Mursi, denounced Israel's role in the fighting. In support of Hamas, Egyptian officials plan to visit Gaza on Friday.

By Nidal al-MughrabiReuters / November 15, 2012

Egyptian protesters hold a banner with Arabic that reads, "save Gaza," during a protest in solidarity with Gaza after Israel launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander in Cairo, Egypt, Thursday.

AP Photo/Ahmed Gomaa

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GAZA

Egypt's prime minister prepared to visit the Gaza Strip on Friday in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Hamas militants embroiled in a new escalation of conflict with Israel that risks spiraling into all-out war.

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Two rockets from Gaza crashed near Tel Aviv in the first such attack on Israel's commercial capital for 20 years. One fell into the Mediterranean Sea and the other in an uninhabited part of one of the Tel Aviv suburbs 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 a long-running conflict came on Wednesday when Israel killed Hamas's 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 further 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's prime minister, Hisham Kandil, is to visit Gaza on Friday with other Egyptian officials in a show of support for the enclave, an Egyptian cabinet official said. Israel promised that the delegation would come to no harm.

An Egyptian government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said officials accompanying Kandil would explore the possibility of brokering a ceasefire.

Mursi faces domestic pressure to act tough. But Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in U.S. 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 U.S.-backed predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

Tel Aviv targeted 

Air raid sirens sent residents running for shelter in Tel Aviv, a Mediterranean city that has not been hit by a rocket since the 1991 Gulf War when it was targeted by Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

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