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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.

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The Tel Aviv metropolitan area is home to more than 3 million people, more than 40 percent of Israel's population.

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"This escalation will exact a price that the other side will have to pay," Barak said in a television broadcast shortly after the strike.

But an Israeli cabinet statement on Wednesday spoke only of "improving" national security - acknowledgement that the Jewish state has no illusions about crushing the militants once and for all.

Speaking at the same time in Gaza, Hamas leader Haniyeh urged Egypt to do more to help the Palestinians.

"We call upon the brothers in Egypt to take the measures that will deter this enemy," the Hamas prime minister said.

The resurgent conflict will be the biggest test yet of Mursi's commitment to Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace.

Cairo recalled its ambassador from Israel on Wednesday. Israel's ambassador left Cairo on what was called a routine home visit; Israel said its embassy would remain open.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which brought Mursi to power in an election after the downfall of Hosni Mubarak, has called for a "Day of Rage" in Arab capitals on Friday. The Brotherhood is seen as the spiritual mentors of Hamas.

The Israeli army said 300 targets were hit in Gaza, including more than 130 militant rocket launchers. It said more than 270 rockets had struck Israel since the start of the operation, with its Iron Dome interceptor system shooting down more than 130 rockets bound for residential areas.

Expecting days or more of fighting and almost inevitable civilian casualties, Israeli warplanes dropped leaflets in Gaza advising residents to stay away from Hamas and other militants.

Diplomatic efforts 

The United States has asked countries that have contact with Hamas to urge the Islamist movement to stop its recent rocket attacks from Gaza, a White House adviser said.

"We've ... urged those that have a degree of influence with Hamas, such as Turkey, and Egypt and some of our European partners, to use that influence to urge Hamas to de-escalate," Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, said in a conference call with reporters.

French President Francois Hollande began talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders in an attempt to avert an escalation of violence in the Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Jean-Francois Ayrault said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to Netanyahu too, saying Hamas bore the principal responsibility for the crisis.

Israel's sworn enemy Iran, which supports and arms Hamas, condemned the Israeli offensive as "organised terrorism".

Lebanon's Iranian-backed Shi'ite Muslim militia Hezbollah, which has its own rockets aimed at the Jewish state, denounced strikes on Gaza as "criminal aggression", but held its fire.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation condemned Israel's action.

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