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Israel 'Ready to Expand' Gaza Operation

RIA Novosti

06:50 15/11/2012

MOSCOW, November 15 (RIA Novosti) - Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that Israel is prepared to expand its operation in the Gaza Strip if necessary, regional media reported.

Qatar-based broadcaster Al Jazeera quoted Netanyahu as saying in a televised address on Wednesday evening that his country sent a "clear message" to radical Islamist group Hamas through the killing of its military commander Ahmed al-Jabari, head of Hamas' armed wing - the Ezzedine al-Qassam (Izz el-Deen Al-Qassam) Brigades.

The Israeli army said on Wednesday it had started a large-scale operation to eliminate key militant commanders and “terrorist infrastructure” in the Gaza Strip controlled by Hamas. Al-Jabari became the first target hit in a series of well-planned air strikes on Gaza. He was killed earlier on Wednesday when his car was hit by an Israeli missile.

Other targets of the operation “Pillar of Defense” (“Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew) included rocket launch sites belonging to Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

According to preliminary reports, dozens of long-range rockets were destroyed on Wednesday, including Fajr-5 missiles, which have a range of more than 40 kilometers (25 miles) and are capable of hitting Tel Aviv. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said most long-range rockets were destroyed in the operation.

At least ten Palestinians, including three children, were killed in the attacks and some 40 were injured, local health authorities said.

Israeli newspaper the Haaretz reported that Jabari, 52, was the man behind the abduction of Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006. Over 80 rockets hit Israel on Wednesday, with 28 Israelis suffering from shock and two slightly injured. Twenty-seven rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the Haaretz said.

Meanwhile, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin said on Wednesday evening prior to an emergency UN Security Council meeting on the Gaza situation that Moscow hopes the Council will succeed in convincing Israel and Palestinians to stop violence.

The Palestinian Authority's envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, has called on the Security Council to make Israel stop its offensive in Gaza. Egypt has recalled its ambassador from Israel.

The Israeli attacks follow the latest round of violence on the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip that began over the weekend. A few Israelis have been injured in attacks from Gaza.

Israel last carried out a full-scale attack on Gaza during Operation Cast Lead four years ago in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

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