According to some sources, the number of Palestinians killed in Gaza surpassed 1,000 this week, with a great number of them civilians.
Ann Veneman, the head of U.N.’s children's agency said this week that up to 300 children were among the dead. She said the casualties were “tragic” and “unacceptable.”
It is difficult to accurately assess the death toll in Hamas-controlled Gaza however, leading to some doubt about the actual figures.
On the Israeli side, 13 people have died, among them 3 civilians.
Israel launched the offensive in Gaza in late December in response to rocket attacks from Hamas.
In the third week of violence, Israeli ground troops occupy strategic points inside the Gaza Strip but have stopped short of entering Gaza City and Rafah.
Israel also targeted senior Hamas operative Amir Mansi, the commander of the Hamas rocket attack program. Mansi was the official directly responsible for the launching of long-range Grad missiles deep into Israel.
The U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has repeatedly called on both Hamas and Israel to accept a ceasefire, so far without success.
Hamas has been insisting that all passes to Gaza must be opened immediately, which Israel refuses to accept, arguing that Hamas uses the passes to smuggle arms into Gaza. A spokesperson for Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said earlier this week that they would not accept a temporary ceasefire if it allowed Hamas to rearm.
“Israel will not accept a situation where Hamas gets a temporary period of quiet just to rearm and regroup,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for Olmert.
Both sides also ignored a legally-binding resolution adopted by U.N.’s Ban this week.
“My message is simple, direct, and to the point: the fighting must stop. To both sides, I say: Just stop now," Ban said before heading to Middle East.
On Wednesday, Hamas hinted at accepting a cease-fire plan brokered by Egypt, but stopped short of fully accepting it.
The Egyptian proposal involves a temporary ceasefire, followed by a long-term truce, opening of Gaza’s border crossings and withdrawal of Israeli forces.
An Israeli envoy will meet Egyptian mediators on the plan in Cairo on Thursday.