GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Terrified residents ran for cover Tuesday in a densely populated neighborhood of Gaza City as Israeli troops backed by tanks thrust deeper into the city and sought Hamas fighters in alleyways and cellars.
On the diplomatic front, Egyptian mediators pushed Hamas to accept a truce proposal and, in a hopeful sign, Israel sent its lead negotiator to Cairo for "decisive" talks on a cease-fire. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon also headed for the region to join diplomatic efforts.
Israeli military officials say that depending on what happens with what they described as "decisive" talks in Cairo, Israel will move closer to a cease-fire or widen its offensive. They spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing sensitive policy matters.
Asked if Israel's war aims had been achieved, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said: "Most of them, probably not all of them."
Israeli troops now have the coastal city of 400,000 virtually surrounded as part of an offensive launched Dec. 27 to end years of Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns.
Palestinian medical officials reported at least 42 deaths from the conflict on Tuesday.
The army said three soldiers were wounded, including an officer who was searching a northern Gaza house when a bomb exploded.
Palestinian hospital officials say more than 940 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed in the fighting. Thirteen Israelis, 10 of them soldiers, have died.
Palestinian rocket fire has dropped significantly since the offensive was launched.