Israel, which lost two soldiers, seemed ready to press home its fiercest air and ground assault since it pulled troops back to the borders of the coastal enclave in 2005. It blamed rocket attacks by the Islamist Hamas movement for provoking four days of fighting, in which 96 Palestinians have been killed.
U.S. President George W. Bush sounded more supportive of his Israeli allies. While regretting all loss of life, his spokesman said: "There is a clear distinction between terrorist rocket attacks that target civilians and action in self-defence."
Aides to Abbas said fighting could wreck new U.S.-backed peace talks. Israeli officials said Palestinian chief negotiator Ahmed Qurie called his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister , to call off a meeting due on Monday. But Abbas's aides said no decision to suspend the process had been taken.