U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is calling on Israel to carry out a unilateral cease-fire in the Gaza Strip. Israel has rejected those calls, and on Friday continued its bombardment of Gaza, where medical officials say more than 1,100 people have died since the start of the offensive 21 days ago.
Diplomatic activity intensified on Friday as Israeli forces continued to pound targets in Gaza and the number of casualties continued to mount.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - on a weeklong tour of the region - was in the West Bank town of Ramallah, where he met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The top U.N. official called on Israel to stop its assault on Hamas targets on Gaza.
"The fighting must stop now," he said. "We have no time to lose. If they [take] some more time, there will be more casualties, more losses of human lives, more destructions. I would urge you again that a unilateral declaration of ceasefire would be necessary at this time."
Israel immediately rejected the notion of a unilateral cease-fire. Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev tells VOA the Jewish state does not want a temporary solution - one that would be short of guaranteeing a permanent end to Hamas rocket attacks against civilians in Southern Israel.
"We want a sustained, real quiet in the South and it's clear that Israel will not agree to a situation where we unilaterally cease our fire and have Hamas simultaneously shooting rockets into Israel," he said.
The top Israeli negotiator went to Egypt on Friday to work out details of a cease-fire plan that Egypt is proposing. At the same time, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni traveled to Washington as part of Israel's efforts to get U.S. support in stopping the flow of weapons to Hamas.
Aerial bombing and artillery fire continued to be heard in Gaza on Friday, one day after residents reported the most intense fighting since the start of the offensive - now in its third week.
Mourners on Friday buried Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam, who was killed during an Israeli air strike on Thursday. Siam was regarded as the architect of Hamas' takeover Gaza in 2007.