As fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants enters its tenth day, efforts to broker a ceasefire continue, but little progress appears to have been made.
Israeli fighter jets continued to pummel the Gaza Strip in the early hours of Wednesday, flattening residential buildings and killing at least four Palestinians, including a journalist.
The latest raids came as Palestinian groups launched more rockets towards cities in southern Israel. There were no immediate reports of injuries.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayahu on Wednesday briefed foreign journalists on the efforts to end the fighting.
“We’re not standing with a stopwatch,” he said. “We are taking care of the operation’s objectives.”
He said earlier that Israel was fighting to restore quiet and to maximise the amount of time that any truce with Hamas would last.
“There are only two ways that you can deal with them. You can either conquer them – and that’s always an open possibility – or you can deter them,” Netanyahu said.
“We are engaged right now in forceful deterrence, but I have to say we don’t rule out anything.”
There were reports on Tuesday that a ceasefire could soon come into force, a day after the US expressed support for one for the first time. But an Israeli defence source has since said that that there is “no ceasefire on the table”.
France, Egypt and Jordan have proposed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the violence, but diplomats told Reuters news agency that the US believed a “public pronouncement right now” would not help.
“It continues to be that quiet, intensive behind-the-scenes discussions are tactically our approach at this time,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Senior Hamas officials in Qatar, meanwhile, have said ceasefire “efforts and contacts are serious and are continuing”. They have also accused Israel of being “stubborn” by demanding that the group unilaterally halt its fire for several hours before it decided whether to do the same.
Mark Regev, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said Israel wants “to come out of this with a solution that will bring a sustainable period of peace and quiet”.
Israeli defence sources, meanwhile, have poured cold water on the possibility of an imminent ceasefire.
“The IDF operation is continuing at full-throttle. There is still no ceasefire on the table,” an official said on Wednesday.
Earlier, Israeli forces shot dead four other Palestinians and wounded scores more during protests and a historic general strike in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.
At least 219 Palestinians, including 63 children, have been killed in Gaza since the latest violence flared on May 10. About 1,500 Palestinians have been wounded.
Twelve people in Israel have died, including two children, while at least 300 Israelis have been wounded.