Gaza toll tops 800 as truce efforts intensify

Israeli fire pushed the Palestinian death toll in Gaza to above 800 Friday, as the US and UN pressed Israel and Hamas to agree a humanitarian ceasefire and thrash out a durable truce.

In the West Bank, demonstrations began as Palestinian factions declared a "Day of Rage" after a night of clashes over Israel's Gaza offensive that left one Palestinian dead.

Among the dead in Gaza on Friday were two women killed in an air strike, one of them pregnant, adding to a spiralling toll of Palestinian civilian casualties from Israel's military operation to halt militant rocket fire.

As the fighting continued on day 18 of the conflict, the Israeli army announced the death of a 36-year-old reserve soldier, bringing the toll of soldiers and officers killed in Gaza since July 8 to 33.

Hamas meanwhile announced it had fired three rockets at Tel Aviv's Ben Gurion airport, with an army spokeswoman confirming that "two rockets were shot down over metropolitan Tel Aviv."

The claim raised new fears after many US and European carriers resumed flights to the airport after a two-day suspension following rocket fire near the facility.

The army said militants fired 25 rockets which hit southern Israel early Friday with another 10 intercepted, bringing the number of rockets and mortar rounds from Gaza that hit Israel since July 8 to 1,870, with another 473 intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.

The rockets have killed two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.

- Ceasefire efforts ramped up -

International pressure on both sides to cease fire ramped up Friday after the alleged Israeli shelling of a UN facility sheltering displaced Gazans killed at least 15 civilians, drawing widespread international condemnation.

Israel's security cabinet was to meet Friday to discuss a truce proposal passed to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by US Secretary of State John Kerry, Israeli media reported.

It proposes an initial week-long humanitarian ceasefire that would allow Hamas to save face after having rejected an Egyptian initiative last week that proposed a truce first and negotiations later.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu flew to Qatar on Friday to help efforts after Kerry reached out to Hamas allies Ankara and Doha to push for a ceasefire.

According to Western and Palestinian officials, once a humanitarian lull takes hold, delegations from Israel and Hamas will arrive in Cairo -- which has mediated past conflicts between the two -- for indirect talks that could lead to a lasting deal.

- 7-day humanitarian truce -

Kerry has been joined in Cairo by UN chief Ban Ki-moon and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond to push forward the plan, diplomats said.

Ban on Friday urged an immediate "humanitarian pause" in the fighting coinciding with the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which begins on Monday or Tuesday, depending on the sighting of the new moon.

"On this, the last Friday of Ramadan, I call for an immediate, unconditional humanitarian pause in the fighting in Gaza and Israel. This pause would last through the Eid al-Fitr holiday period," Ban said in a statement released by his office.

Hamas's exiled Doha-based leader Khaled Meshaal, however, insisted in a Thursday interview with the BBC that any truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza.

"We want a ceasefire as soon as possible, that's parallel with the lifting of the siege of Gaza," he said.

Israel braced meanwhile for West Bank and east Jerusalem unrest after Palestinian factions declared a "Day of Rage" and Israeli police restricted entry to the Al Aqsa mosque compound to men aged 50 and above.

One Palestinian was killed and 150 injured in Thursday night clashes with Israeli forces in the West Bank, Palestinian medics said, with Israeli police arresting 29 in east Jerusalem.

An AFP correspondent said nearly 1,000 Palestinians were holding a protest in the southern West Bank city Hebron on Friday afternoon, with a similar demonstration taking place in nearby Halhul.

In Gaza, the death toll rose to 825 in 18 days of violence, with a five-year-old child among the latest deaths announced.

- Pregnant woman killed -

Security sources said Islamic Jihad spokesman Salah Hasanein and two of his sons had been killed in an air strike, and emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said two women, one of them pregnant, were killed in a strike on a house in central Gaza.

On Thursday, at least 15 people were killed in alleged Israeli shelling on a UN school sheltering some of the 100,000 Palestinians who have fled their homes during the fighting.

The shell hit a courtyard where people were camped, killing least 15 people and wounding more than 200, Qudra said.

The UN said it had been trying to coordinate with the army to evacuate civilians before the strike, without success, but the army said it had offered a humanitarian window, and suggested militants firing rockets in the area could be to blame for the deaths.

Rights groups say around 80 percent of the casualties so far have been civilians, a quarter of them children.