Asked if Israel might move from the mostly aerial attacks of the
past four days into a ground war in Gaza to stop militant rocket
fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied: "We are weighing
all possibilities and preparing for all possibilities."
"No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all
power," he told reporters in Tel Aviv on Friday, a day after a phone
call with U.S. President Barack Obama about the worst flare-up in
Israeli-Palestinian violence in almost two years.
Washington affirmed Israel's right to defend itself in a statement
from the Pentagon on Friday. But Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon he was concerned "about the
risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to
do everything they can to protect civilian lives and restore calm",
a Pentagon statement said.
Two disabled women were killed and four others wounded and in
serious condition when an Israeli tank shell struck a rehabilitation
center in the eastern part of Gaza City, Palestinian medics said. An
Israeli military spokeswoman said she was checking for details on
why the center was targeted.
Three militants and four other people including a 65-year-old man
were killed by air strikes early on Saturday, doctors in the densely
populated sliver of coastal territory said.
Residents said a mosque in the central Gaza Strip was bombed to
rubble. The military said it had housed a weapons cache. Graffiti
scrawled on one of the mosque's blasted walls read,
"We will prevail despite your arrogance, Netanyahu."
In Israel, a Palestinian rocket seriously wounded one person and
injured another seven when it hit a fuel tanker at a service station
in Ashdod, 30 km (20 miles) north of Gaza. Islamist militants in
Gaza warned they would launch rockets at Tel Aviv's main
international airport and warned airlines to stay clear.
Gaza medical officials said at least 76 civilians, including 24
children, were among 115 people killed so far in the aerial
bombardments on the narrow 40-km-(25-mile)-long, sandy strip into
which nearly 2 million people are packed.
Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, based in the
Palestinian self-rule area of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, urged
the United Nations Security Council to order an immediate ceasefire.
But Israel said it was determined to end cross-border rocket attacks
that intensified last month after its forces arrested hundreds of
activists from the Islamist Hamas movement in the West Bank after
the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found
killed. A Palestinian youth was then killed in Jerusalem in a
suspected revenge attack by Israelis.
Israel's campaign "will continue until we are certain that quiet
returns to Israeli citizens," Netanyahu said. Israel had hit more
than 1,000 targets in Gaza and there were "more to go."
Israel's army chief, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, said his forces
were ready to act as needed - hinting at readiness to send tanks and
ground troops across the barbed-wire boundary into Gaza, as Israel
last did for two weeks in early 2009.
"We are in the midst of an assault and we are prepared to expand it
as much as is required, to wherever is required, with whatever force
will be required and for as long as will be required," Gantz told
The Israeli military issued a daily summary on Saturday, saying it
had managed to strike at "10 terror operatives, six of whom were
directly involved in the launch of rockets at Israel at the time of
The statement added that 68 rocket launchers, 21 militant compounds
and 18 weapons-manufacturing facilities had been hit and militants
had fired almost 700 projectiles into Israel.
[to top of second column]
CALL FOR CEASEFIRE
Abbas, who agreed a power-sharing deal with Gaza's dominant Hamas in
April after years of feuding, called for international help. "The
Palestinian leadership urges the Security Council to quickly issue a
clear condemnation of this Israeli aggression and impose a
commitment of a mutual ceasefire immediately."
After the failure of the latest U.S.-brokered peace talks with
Israel, Abbas's deal with Hamas angered Israel.
The rocket salvoes by the Islamist movement and its allies, some
striking more than 100 km (60 miles) from Gaza, have killed no one
so far, due in part to interceptions by Israel's partly-U.S. funded
Iron Dome aerial defense system.
But racing for shelter has become a routine for hundreds of
thousands of Israelis, and some 20,000 reservists have already been
mobilized for a possible thrust into Gaza, the army says.
Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion Airport has been fully operational since the
Israeli offensive began and international airlines have continued to
fly in, with no reports of Gaza rockets - largely inaccurate
projectiles - landing anywhere near the facility, inland from the
Mediterranean coastal metropolis. The airport is within a zone
covered by Iron Dome.
Fire was also exchanged across Israel's northern border on Friday.
Lebanese security sources said two rockets were launched into
northern Israel but they did not know who was responsible. Israel
responded with bursts of artillery. Palestinian groups in Lebanon
have often sent rockets into Israel in the past.
Israel's Gaza operation is the deadliest since November 2012, when
around 180 Palestinians and six Israelis were killed during an
Israeli air campaign to punish Hamas for missile attacks. That
conflict was eventually halted with mediation from Egypt, then
governed by Hamas's Muslim Brotherhood allies.
But Egypt, now ruled by the Brotherhood's enemies, is locked in a
feud with Hamas over the group's alleged support for jihadi
militants in Egypt's Sinai desert - something Hamas denies. Cairo
said on Friday its "intensive efforts" with all sides to end the
warfare has met only "intransigence and stubbornness".
Izzat El-Risheq, a Hamas official told Arab television Al-Hadath
"there are efforts for a ceasefire", but demanded Israel stop its
offensive before any deal could be reached.
If Israel launches a ground invasion of Gaza, it would be the first
since a three-week war in the winter of 2008-09, when some 1,400
Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.
(Additional reporting by Allyn Fisher-Ilan and Dan Williams in
Jerusalem and Ali Abdelatti in Cairo, Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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