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Cease-Fire Possible? Israel & Hamas Open To Diplomatic Solution, But Far Apart In Demands

Egypt Trying To Negotiate End To Fighting With The Help Of Turkey And Qatar
Israeli men inspect the damage caused to a house by a rocket launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli town of Ofakim on November 18, 2012 (credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images) | Palestinian firefighters extinguish a blaze following an Israeli air strike on the Gaza City tower housing Palestinian and international media (credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

Israeli men inspect the damage caused to a house by a rocket launched by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip in the southern Israeli town of Ofakim on November 18, 2012 (credit: MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP/Getty Images) | Palestinian firefighters extinguish a blaze following an Israeli air strike on the Gaza City tower housing Palestinian and international media (credit: MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CBSNewYork/AP) —  The pressure is on to find some kind of diplomatic solution to the violence between Israel and Hamas.

Mediators are hoping to have a clearer idea whether a cease-fire is possible as both Israel and Hamas are presenting their conditions for a halt to the fighting, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

While both sides were far apart in their demands, they said they were open to a diplomatic solution — and prepared for further escalation if that failed.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian militant group, Islamic Jihad, said an Israeli air strike Monday killed one of its top militant leaders.

DEADLY VIOLENCE CONTINUES

As the conflict continues, civilians were getting caught in the crossfire as Israel and Hamas launched rockets at each other in an escalating conflict.

The Associated Press reported, overall, the offensive that began Wednesday killed 100 Palestinians, including 53 civilians, and wounded some 840 people, including 225 children, Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens have been wounded. A rocket-defense system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas.

The Israeli military said it is targeting weapons’ storage facilities, launch sites and police stations in Gaza, which are often located among civilian homes. But Hamas said at least 24 civilians have been killed in less than 24 hours.

In southern Israel, a Hamas rocket ripped a hole though a school building. Police said that at least 75 rockets have landed overnight. No casualties were reported.

“All of the schools are closed and there are no children inside the buildings,” said Micky Rosenfled, of the Israeli Police.

WILL THERE BE A GROUND INVASION?

For the past few days, Israel has been moving tops towards the border — 75,000 reservists have been called up and it has not ruled out a ground invasion of Gaza.

But a ground invasion would inevitably lead to heavy Palestinian casualties, which would cost Israel support from the international community.

Israeli president Shimon Peres acknowledged as much.

“I hope that we shall bring an end to this very strange and inhumane war for the benefit of both of all of us,” Peres said.

“The Israeli public supports these air strikes, particularly the killing of the Hamas military wing commander, but they don’t have the same support for a ground invasion,” said Ambassador Stuart Holiday of the Meridian International Center.

PRESIDENT OBAMA WEIGHS IN

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is warning Israel that any further escalation may derail any future peace talks and the two-state solution that has been discussed for decades.

But while travelling in Asia, the president made clear he would not second guess the strategy of one of America’s closest allies.

“There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said.

Obama also called Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and discussed ways to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.

Obama underscored the need for Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel.

In a statement, the White House said Obama also expressed regret for the deaths of Israeli and Palestinian civilians in his calls with both leaders.

WHAT ARE THE PROSPECTS FOR A CEASE-FIRE?

As for a possible cease-fire, Egypt — a strong supporter of Hamas — is trying to negotiate an end to the fighting with the help of Turkey and Qatar.

Both Israel and Hamas are looking for guarantees to ensure a long-term halt to the hostilities.

But officials familiar with the talks said the two sides still seem far apart.

The leader of Hamas took a tough stance, rejecting Israel’s demands that the militant group stop its rocket fire. Instead, Khaled Mashaal said, Israel must meet Hamas’ demands for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

“We don’t accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor,” he told reporters in Egypt. “We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands.”

An Israeli official said Israel hoped to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis as well and signaled Egypt was likely to play a key role in enforcing any truce.

“We prefer the diplomatic solution if it’s possible. If we see it’s not going to bear fruit, we can escalate,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic efforts under way.

Hamas fighters have fired more than 1,000 rockets into Israel in the current round of fighting, including 95 on Monday.

Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said 29 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile battery. Rockets landed in open areas of Beersheva, Ashdod, Ashkelon, and caused damage in a number of areas.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)