GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories - Fresh Israeli bombardments rocked Gaza in the early hours of Wednesday, killing two children, as Palestinian factions were to head to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.
As the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its 23rd day, international efforts to bring an end to the bloodshed that has killed more than 1,200 people continued apace, and concern grew over the high civilian death toll, especially among children.
Since the war began on July 8, when Israel launched a campaign to stop rocket fire from Gaza and destroy attack tunnels, a series of concerted international efforts to bring a truce have fallen flat.
And the fighting continued Wednesday morning, when the first Israeli bombardments of the day killed two girls and a middle-aged man.
A shelling in the northern Gaza Strip killed an 11-year-old handicapped girl, emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said, with a subsequent shelling in the centre of the small coastal territory killing a 16-year-old girl.
Loud explosions could be heard from Gaza City, an AFP correspondent said, as well as rockets being fired by Gaza militants.
The fighting came as a Palestinian delegation prepared for a trip to Cairo to discuss a temporary humanitarian ceasefire.
The West Bank-headquartered Palestine Liberation Organisation, which has been at odds with Hamas for years, said it had garnered the Islamist movement's support for a 24-hour truce, but did not say when that was due to start.
Israel's government had no comment on the proposal.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas "was in touch with (Hamas chief Khaled) Meshaal yesterday and today. He proposed the 24 hour truce, Meshaal and Hamas agreed", senior Palestinian official Nabil Shaath told AFP on Tuesday.
International efforts have focused on getting Israel and Hamas to agree to a temporary humanitarian ceasefire, and then extending that truce for a longer period while they intensify efforts to end hostilities altogether.
But apart from a fragile halt on Saturday after which hostilities picked up with renewed vigour, efforts have failed.