The war in Gaza appears to be in a grim holding pattern, poised before the alternatives of a ceasefire or a ground offensive by Israeli tanks and troops.
The Israeli Defence Forces reported they had struck 80 targets overnight, bringing the total number to 1350 since the offensive began last Wednesday.
For the second night, there was a lull in rocket fire out of Gaza, with only one missile launched, according to the IDF. They claimed that the capabilities of Hamas and other militant groups have been significantly reduced by bombing. Rocket fire resumed on Monday morning.
Palestinian official Nabil Shaath said some progress had been made at ceasefire talks in Cairo, but a truce was not imminent.
It was "not likely to take effect in the coming days because Israel is trying to impose its own stipulations ignoring the demands of Hamas and other Palestinian factions," Shaath told the Palestinian news agency Ma'an after being briefed by Hamas leader Khaled Meshal and his deputy Mousa Abu Marzouq, who are in Cairo.
Israel has also sent an envoy to the Egyptian capital. Reports from Cairo said the unnamed envoy had been taken straight from the airport to secret talks with Egyptian officials. Shaath described the contacts between Israel and Egypt as "serious attempts to reach a ceasefire" but a senior Israeli official in Jerusalem told the Haaretz newspaper that Israel did not expect a breakthrough.
The UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon is due to arrive in the region on Tuesday to shore up efforts to reach a ceasefire. He is to visit Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo.
Unconfirmed reports suggest that Hamas is seeking an end to targeted assassinations of militants in Gaza by the Israeli military and for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted.
Israel is seeking a long-term truce of at least 15 years, an end to rocket fire, attacks on Israeli soldiers along the border and weapons smuggling. It is also insisting on continuing targeted killings if it believes an attack is imminent, according to a report on the Israeli Ynet website.
As the death toll in Gaza reached at least 88 overnight, shocking pictures of four children killed in an airstrike on Sunday were repeatedly broadcast on Arab television. The images are likely to harden support for Hamas against what Palestinians see as Israeli "aggression".
Without a ceasefire in the coming days, the prospects of a ground invasion will rise. According to an opinion poll in Haaretz, 30% of the Israeli public support such an escalation despite the risks of high casualties. Operation Pillar of Defence has the support of around 84% of the public, with 12% opposing the offensive.
Personal opinion ratings for prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and defence minister Ehud Barak have risen since the conflict began. Israel is holding a general election in two months.
In southern Israel, reservists who had been called up in anticipation of a possible ground operation arrived near the Gazan border on Sunday, and military vehicles trundled along nearby roads, some of which have been closed to civilian traffic.
Hamas's repeated targeting of Tel Aviv, Israel's densely populated cultural and commercial centre, raised expectations that Netanyahu would respond to pressure to step up action to halt rocket fire.
However, both sides are thought to be keen to avoid such an escalation. "No matter what Hamas's capabilities are, they will not be able to defend Gaza from Israel [in the event of a ground offensive]," said Mkhaimer Abu Saada, a political scientist at Gaza's al-Azhar university.
Israel, despite its hawkish rhetoric, is also aware that the high casualties that are inevitable in a ground offensive are likely to result in a sharp change of tone from the international community.
Abu Saada said there were two likely scenarios: a limited ground operation with Israeli troops and tanks entering and occupying relatively small areas of Gaza and withdrawing as soon as possible, as happened in Operation Cast Lead, the 22-day offensive in 2008-9; or a much bigger operation to "hit Hamas hard, weakening it to the point where it was no longer capable of ruling Gaza".
However, to prevent even more extremist militant organisations filling the resulting power vacuum, Israel would have to reoccupy Gaza on a long-term basis. "This is probably the last thing in Israel's mind," he said.
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