Gaza suffered its bloodiest day since Israel launched a military offensive in the Hamas-controlled enclave, with a sharp escalation in the ferocity of attacks from both sides amid frenzied last-minute diplomacy to try and forestall an Israeli ground assault.Still more at the link.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a “significant expansion” of Israel’s military onslaught, even as an Israeli envoy was reported to be travelling to Cairo for ceasefire talks with Egyptian mediators. Nabeel Sha’ath, a senior Fatah official, was dispatched to Gaza by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to intercede with the leaders of the rival Hamas group.
At least 24 Palestinians were killed by Israeli air and artillery attacks yesterday – raising the Palestinian death toll to 69 and marking the day as the bloodiest since Operation Pillar of Defence began last Wednesday with the assassination of the Hamas military chief, Ahmed al-Jabari. Israel said the commander of the Hamas rocket unit was among yesterday’s targets.
Eleven Palestinian civilians were reported killed when an Israeli missile levelled their home in Gaza City’s Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in an apparent strike against the home of a senior Hamas militant. The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency said that four women and four children from the same family were among the dead.
The Israel Foreign Press Association, meanwhile, lodged an official complaint with the Israeli army after six journalists were injured, one seriously, when Israeli missiles destroyed the offices and studio of two television stations linked to Hamas in Gaza City high-rises that also house Sky News Arabic and other international media bureaus.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh said Israel had bombed the Al-Quds bureau “because it had enraged the Zionists by its coverage” of Israel’s “crimes in Gaza.” Both pro-Hamas networks continued broadcasting from other locations, but their programmes were interrupted by messages from the Israeli army warning Gaza residents to stay away from Hamas installations and personnel.
At least four Israelis were injured as Palestinian groups unleashed repeated barrages of rockets at Beersheba, Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod throughout the day. There were several direct hits on homes and cars. One Grad rocket hit the roof of a four-storey apartment block in Ashkelon and drilled through to the second floor.
“The apartment was torn to pieces. It’s a miracle I am still alive,” 71-year-old father of nine Malai Molalem told The Independent, huddling in a bomb shelter as the hollow boom of falling rockets sounded again and again.
Hamas fired two long-range Fajr 5 missiles at Tel Aviv, 40 miles away, making four attempts in three days. They were both destroyed by the Iron Dome missile defence system.
Addressing the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu said Israel had attacked more than 1,000 targets since Wednesday and was “achieving significant hits on weapons aimed at Israeli citizens, as well as on those who use these weapons and those who dispatch them.”
“The IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations,” Mr Netanyahu warned as the cabinet approved the mobilisation of 75,000 troops. Roads were blocked as thousands of reservists and military transporters loaded with tanks and armoured cars rumbled southwards.
With rumours of an imminent ground offensive, other countries in the region moved to try and find a negotiated settlement.
And remember, much of what Gaza is counting is its own dead. See CAMERA, "In Gaza, Macabre Manipulations of a Child Victim."