RAFAH, Gaza Strip (NEWSnet/AP) — Israel increased airstrikes Monday in Gaza, where the death toll is rising rapidly. United States advised Israel to delay an expected ground invasion to allow more time to negotiate release of hostages taken by Hamas militants.

A third small aid convoy from Egypt entered Gaza, where the population of 2.3 million has been running out of food, water and medicine under Israel’s two-week seal. With Israel still barring entry of fuel, U.N. said its distribution of aid would grind to a halt within days when it cannot fuel its trucks. Gaza hospitals are struggling to keep generators running.

Heavy airstrikes demolished buildings throughout Gaza, including in areas where Palestinians were told to seek refuge.

Late Monday, Hamas announced  it had freed an additional two hostages on humanitarian grounds. Israel media, citing an anonymous official, confirmed the release, but there was no formal announcement. The Associated Press could not independently confirm the release.

Israel is widely expected to launch a ground offensive in Gaza. That is raising fear of the war spreading beyond Gaza and Israel.

U.S. has told Iranian-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon and other groups not to join the fight.

The U.S. advised Israeli officials that delaying a ground offensive would give Washington more time to work with regional mediators to secure release of more hostages taken by Hamas, according to a U.S. official.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant told troops near Gaza to keep preparing for an offensive “because it will come.” He said it will be a combined offensive from air, land and sea but did not give a timeframe.

Tanks and troops have been massed at the Gaza border, and Israel says it has increased airstrikes to reduce the risk to troops in the next stages.

On Monday, Palestinian Red Crescent said 20 trucks entered Gaza carrying food, water, medicine and medical supplies, through the Rafah crossing with Egypt, the only way into Gaza not controlled by Israel. It was the third delivery in three days, each around the same size.

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