Following the worst outbreak of violence along the Gaza frontier
since an eight-day war in 2012, the Israeli military said a ground
invasion of the enclave was possible, though not imminent, and urged
citizens within a range of 40 km (24 miles) of the coastal territory
to stay close to bomb shelters.
"We are preparing for a battle against Hamas which will not end
within a few days," Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a
"We will not tolerate missiles being fired at Israeli towns and we
are prepared to extend the operations with all means at our disposal
in order to keep hitting Hamas."
A source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office quoted the
Israeli leader as saying: "The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) must be
ready to go all the way. All options are on the table, including a
The Israel-Gaza border heated up last month after Israel's arrest of
hundreds of Hamas activists in the occupied West Bank, where three
Israeli youths went missing on June 12.
More than 200 rockets have been launched at Israel from the Gaza
Strip, the military said, since Israel mounted the dragnet while
searching for the teens, who were found dead last week.
Israel has accused Hamas militants of killing them. In a suspected
revenge attack, a Palestinian teen was abducted in East Jerusalem
last Wednesday. His charred body was found in a forest and six
Israeli suspects have been arrested.
In the Gaza fighting, a Hamas fighter was killed in an air strike in
Nusseirat refugee camp, Palestinian medical officials said.
Palestinian officials said targets included militants' training
facilities while six homes were bombed in the Gaza Strip and 30
people were also wounded.
The Israeli military said that in the past 24 hours, more than 100
rockets had been fired at Israel, a sharp increase. Some were
intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, but two people
were wounded by shrapnel.
Some 1,500 Israeli reservists had been mobilised and more could be
called up, the military said.
RACING FOR COVER
Explosions echoed across the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, shaking
buildings and sending smoke rising from targets hit by Israeli fire.
In residential areas, the sounds of crying children could be heard
as ambulance sirens wailed. Some people took to rooftops to watch
for Israeli aircraft and rockets streaking toward Israel.
In the Israeli port city of Ashdod, motorists scrambled out of their
vehicles and raced for the relative safety of apartment house
entrances as a siren sounded. The scene was repeated in other towns
near the Gaza Strip.
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Hamas' armed wing, the dominant force in the enclave, threatened an
"earthquake" in response to Israel's attacks. But a Palestinian
source close to the group said it was ready to restore calm if
Israel met conditions, including a prisoner release. The Israeli
military, announcing it had launched "Operation Protective Edge",
said it targeted about 50 sites in aerial and naval assaults
overnight and resumed air strikes on Tuesday morning after rockets
were fired at southern Israeli towns.
Warning sirens, which police described as false alarms, sounding as
far away as Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, some 70 km (40 miles) from Gaza.
The heavy barrage followed the deaths, in disputed circumstances on
Monday, of six Hamas men in a tunnel which the Israeli military said
the militant group had built under the border to carry out an attack
In one Israeli attack overnight that destroyed a Gaza home, the
Palestinian Interior Ministry said the family received a telephone
call from an Israeli officer telling them to leave. But the ministry
said nine neighbours were wounded.
At least one of the targeted homes belonged to a Hamas militant,
according to a neighbour.
Setting out terms for a truce, the source close to Hamas said Israel
had to "stop all forms of aggression", recommit to a 2012
Egyptian-brokered ceasefire and release prisoners it detained in the
occupied West Bank last month.
Hamas has been reeling over an Egyptian crackdown on most of the
estimated 1,200 cross-border smuggling tunnels run by the group,
which Egypt says are used to take weapons into the Sinai Peninsula.
A further weakening of Hamas could lead to more radical Islamist
groups in Gaza becoming stronger, a scenario that could alarm
(Writing by Jeffrey Heller; editing by John Stonestreet and Andrew
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