Dubai: Israel continued with its intense attacks on the Gaza Strip as the number of Palestinian dead crossed 400.

A senior Hamas leader was also killed.

Nizar Rayan, one of the top 10 Hamas leaders, was killed in a raid in northern Gaza, according to Palestinian emergency services.

Israel on Thursday launched more than 30 attacks using warplanes, drones and navy ships off the coast of Gaza, the Israeli military said.

Israel also targeted rocket launching sites and tunnels used to smuggle supplies into the territory that Israel has kept virtually sealed since Hamas took control in June 2007. Hundreds of houses around the targets have been destroyed.

The six-day Israeli assault has killed 402 Palestinians and wounded 2,098, the head of Gaza's emergency services said.

Meanwhile, Hamas said some European and Arab countries are continuing their mediation efforts to end the assault.

"There have been several contacts from many countries [with Hamas]," Osama Hamdan, Hamas spokesperson in Beirut, told Gulf News.

He refused to name any country, saying "We want to achieve results in these efforts and therefore we will not allow the media to scuttle or preempt the process," Hamdan said, citing the recent French attempt to reach a ceasefire.

"Israel is betting on achieving gains on the ground in the coming few days that could facilitate achieving political gains afterwards. But this is not going to happen," he said.

Commenting on reports about Israel's mobilisation of tanks and troops along the border with Gaza in preparation for a land invasion, Hamdan said, "We think that an invasion will happen, regardless of the scale. But we also estimate that such an offensive will be very painful for the Israelis."

Plea for assistance

While the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) started giving food assistance to thousands of Palestinians in Gaza, it has appealed for a $34 million (Dh125 million) to meet the needs of the people of the improvised territory in the next four months.

"We appeal to the Arab countries to donate to UNRWA," Adnan Abu Hassneh, Media advisor to UNRWA, told Gulf News from Gaza.

"The situation is very, very dangerous and this appeal [on behalf of] hundreds of thousands of people in Gaza is a matter of life or death," he said.