No casualties were reported in the rocket barrages, on the second
day of an intensified Israeli offensive in the Hamas-dominated Gaza
Strip. Missiles from Israel's Iron Dome defence system shot into the
sky to intercept the projectiles.
The rocket salvoes have sent people racing for bomb shelters, but
businesses remained open in Israel, traffic flowed and the Tel Aviv
Stock Exchange seemed to be unfazed, with shares opening higher.
In the Gaza Strip, residents were shaken overnight by the sound,
every few minutes, of powerful explosions that sent up plumes of
At least 18 civilians, including five children, were among the 27
Palestinian dead since Israel stepped up its assault on Tuesday, and
150 people have been wounded, hospital officials said.
Israeli leaders, who seem to have wide popular support at home for
the Gaza operation, have warned of a lengthy campaign and possible
ground invasion of the heavily populated Palestinian territory. But
questions were already been asked on radio talk shows about an exit
strategy and when rocket fire would end.
At a sidewalk cafe on a fashionable avenue in Tel Aviv, Israel's
most free-wheeling city and its commercial capital, patrons seemed
to take Tuesday's air raid siren in stride, staying in line for
their coffee as joggers and cyclists passed.
Gaza's busiest shopping street was largely deserted on Wednesday,
although some convenience stores remained open.
"I am fine, as long as Tel Aviv is being hit, I am fine," said Abu
Ahmed, 65, as he bought cigarettes.
The Israeli military said that overnight it attacked 118 concealed
rocket launching sites, weapons storage facilities, 10 tunnels and
10 command and control positions.
MILITANT GROUP COMMANDERS TARGETED
In an emerging pattern, it was also going after commanders in Gaza's
militant groups - in attacks which Palestinian officials said caused
casualties among the men's families.
In an air strike on a home in northern Gaza on Wednesday, a top
leader of the Islamic Jihad group and five of his family members
were killed, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said. An 80-year-old
Palestinian woman was killed in an Israeli attack on another target
in central Gaza, local officials said.
The build-up to the most serious hostilities between Israel and Gaza
militants since an eight-day war in 2012 began three weeks ago with
rocket attacks following the abduction and killing of three Jewish
seminary students in the occupied West Bank.
Egypt brokered a truce in the conflict two years ago, but its
military-backed government is hostile toward Islamist Hamas and
there were no immediate signs of intervention to halt the current
fighting between the group and Israel's powerful armed forces.
Israeli leaders have called the persistent Palestinian rocket
salvoes - which have also triggered air raid sirens in Jerusalem -
intolerable and have approved the potential mobilisation of up to
40,000 reserve troops.
"The government has instructed the military to deploy forces along
the border with Gaza to be ready for any contingency," said Mark
Regev, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "We have a
number of options. Our goal, our overriding goal, is to safeguard
the people of Israel and to end the launching of rockets from Gaza
on our citizens."
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An Israeli military spokesman said militants in Gaza have dozens of
long-range rockets. One of them, an M-302 projectile, hit the
coastal city of Hadera, some 60 miles (97 km) north of the Gaza
Strip on Tuesday, landing near a house but causing no injuries, the
In a bold infiltration on Tuesday, gunmen from Hamas landed on the
shore near Zikim adjacent to the Gaza border, where a kibbutz and a
military base are located. Four gunmen were killed.
SUPPORT FOR ISRAEL
Washington backed Israel's actions in Gaza while the European Union
and United Nations urged restraint on both sides.
"We strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire inside of Israel and
the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organisations in
Gaza," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
"No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support
Israel's right to defend itself against these vicious attacks."
Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in
the Israeli-occupied West Bank and entered a power-share with Hamas
in April after years of feuding, said he had spoken to Egypt about
the Gaza crisis.
Under President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Cairo has secured closures on
the Egyptian-Gaza border, increasing economic pressure on Hamas from
a long-running Israeli blockade.
"Sisi stressed Egypt was interested in the safety of the Palestinian
people in the Gaza Strip and sparing this grave assault," a
statement from Abbas's office said, adding that Cairo would "exert
efforts to reach an immediate ceasefire".
In the West Bank, about 400 Palestinian youths, chanting their
support for Hamas's armed wing, threw stones at an Israeli army
checkpoint on Wednesday. Soldiers responded with tear gas and rubber
Israel has blamed Hamas for the killing of the three Jewish seminary
students who disappeared while hitchhiking in the West Bank on June
12. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied a role.
The rocket fire from Gaza began after Israel arrested hundreds of
Hamas activists in a West Bank sweep it mounted in tandem with a
search for the youths, who were found dead last week. A Palestinian
teen was abducted and killed in Jerusalem last Wednesday in a
suspected revenge murder. Six Israelis have been arrested in that
While threatening an "earthquake" of escalation against Israel,
Hamas said it could restore calm if Israel halted the Gaza
offensive, once again committed to a 2012 ceasefire truce and freed
the prisoners it detained in the West Bank last month.
(Additional reporting by Dan Williams and Maayan Lubell in
Jerusalem, Noah Browning and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah and Mark
Felsenthal in Washington; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Toni
Reinhold and Peter Graff)
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