Senior Israeli ministers decided overnight to hold off from launching a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to give Egyptian-led truce efforts a chance to work, a senior Israeli official said Tuesday.
"A decision was taken that for the time being there is a temporary hold on the ground incursion to give diplomacy a chance to succeed," he told AFP following a late-night session of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's inner circle, the Forum of Nine.
"They discussed both the state of the diplomacy and the military operation," he said on condition of anonymity.
As an Egyptian ceasefire proposal appears to be emerging from indirect negotiations in Cairo between Israel and a Hamas team, a stream of top-level diplomats were expected to arrive in the region to throw their weight behind efforts to end the violence which on Tuesday entered its seventh day.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to meet Israeli President Shimon Peres on Tuesday evening and US officials said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would break away from an Asia visit to visit Israel, Egypt and the West Bank.
Palestinian officials said she was expected to visit Ramallah on Wednesday morning for talks with Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.