Egypt's premier vowed Friday to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a truce and urged world leaders to end Israel's "aggression" in Gaza, as he visited the Hamas-run enclave.
Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's came as Israeli officials said the Jewish state was considering launching its first ground offensive in four years into the Gaza Strip and the army started calling up 16,000 reservists.
Qandil entered the bomb-scarred territory via the Rafah crossing early morning, decrying an Israeli assault on Gaza since Wednesday which has sent tensions soaring across a Middle East already shaken by Arab Spring uprisings and civil war in Syria.
Ahead of his arrival, a senior Israeli official said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to an Egyptian request to halt its fire during the visit.
Smoke billows from an Israeli air strike inside the Gaza Strip. Egypt's premier has urged world leaders to stop Israeli "aggression" on Gaza as he visited the Hamas-run enclave and the Jewish state warned of a possible ground offensive.
But Hamas and other armed groups in Gaza made no mention of any ceasefire, and shortly after Qandil crossed into the territory, Hamas' armed wing said it had fired 42 rockets into Israel.
Palestinian security and medical officials told AFP that Israeli planes had carried out an air strike on northern Gaza which killed two people, one of them a child. Israel denied carrying out an air strike in the area.
Speaking at Gaza City's Shifa hospital after seeing the bodies of those killed in the incident, Qandil vowed to intensify Cairo's efforts to secure a ceasefire.
"Egypt will not hesitate to intensify its efforts and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and achieve a lasting truce," he told reporters.
"What I saw today in Gaza, at the hospital, with the martyrs, cannot be met with silence ... and the whole world should take responsibility to stop the aggression."
Qandil's visit came after Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi -- who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood movement that gave birth to Hamas -- warned that Egypt would not accept Israel's "aggression" in the Gaza Strip.
US deputy State Department spokesman Mark Toner said on Thursday he hoped the Egyptian prime minister would deliver a message to halt the rocket fire into Israel.
"We ask Egypt to use its influence in the region to help de-escalate the situation," Toner said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday added her voice to the call.
"The federal chancellor calls on the Egyptian government to use its influence on Hamas to push it towards a moderation of the violence," Merkel's deputy spokesman Georg Streiter said in Berlin.
At least seven Palestinians and three Israelis were killed in a wave of unrelenting cross-border fighting on Thursday as the Jewish state pressed a vast air offensive on Gaza. Duration: 01:16
"It is Hamas in Gaza that is responsible for the outbreak of the violence," Streiter said, adding that Merkel wants an "immediate" stop to the rocket fire.
In Brussels, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Friday that Israel had the right to protect its people against Gaza rocket attacks but urged it to stick to a "proportionate" response.
Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem meanwhile will visit Gaza on Saturday, the presidency said, in a statement denouncing Israeli "aggression" on the Palestinian enclave.
The bloodshed began on Wednesday afternoon when Israel killed top Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari in an air strike on a car in Gaza City. So far 20 Palestinians have been killed while three Israelis have died in rocket fire.
As the violence raged, Israel geared up for an expansion of the campaign, with the military sending out call-up papers to 16,000 reservists.
Palestinians extinguish a fire after Israeli air strikes targeted Interior Ministry building in Gaza City. Egypt's premier has urged world leaders to stop Israeli "aggression" on Gaza as he visited the Hamas-run enclave and the Jewish state warned of a possible ground offensive.
Senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon also warned that Israel was considering a ground operation in order to stamp out rocket fire.
"We are preparing all the military options, including the possibility that forces will be ready to enter Gaza in the event that the firing doesn't stop," he wrote in a series of postings on his official Twitter account.
An AFP correspondent on the Israeli side of the border reported seeing tanks massed along the frontier, and a steady stream of reserve soldiers arriving for duty in the area.
Gaza was shaken by blasts throughout the night as Israeli warplanes carried out relentless sorties and Palestinian militants fired more rockets into the Jewish state as the conflict entered a third day.