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Gaza Death Toll Reaches 95 As Fighting Rages

November 19, 2012


Israeli air strikes have killed 18 Palestinians on November 19, bringing the Gaza death toll to at least 95 as Israel's campaign against militants in the Hamas-ruled enclave continued for a sixth day.

The militant group Islamic Jihad said an Israeli air strike on a Gaza media center killed one of its top leaders.

Israel's army said earlier on November 19 that its warplanes carried out some 80 raids overnight continuing its air strikes in response to rocket attacks from Gaza.

The Israeli military said the raids targeted buildings where high-level Hamas officials were believed to be located.

Hamas's exiled supreme leader, Khalid Mishaal, said in Cairo that if Israel wanted a truce, it must be the first to initiate talks because "they started the war."

Mishaal also said that Palestinian weapons had caught Israel "off-guard" and that Israel had failed to achieve its objectives in Gaza.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on November 19 called Israel "a terrorist state" as concern mounted about the rising number of Palestinian civilian victims, including children.

Speaking at a Eurasian Islamic Council meeting in Istanbul, Erdogan also said, "those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of the mass killing of Muslims."

"Can those who massacre a child have a place in this world? Can we say they respect humanity? For this reason I say that Israel is a terrorist state."

Egypt's Truce Efforts

Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Amr, meanwhile, said he will visit Gaza on November 20 alongside a delegation of Arab ministers.

Egypt is at the center of efforts to broker a truce to end fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups.

European Union foreign and defense ministers meeting in Brussels on November 19 are also expected to discuss the Gaza crisis.

The European Union's foreign-policy chief, Catherine Ashton, speaking ahead of the meeting called for a long-term solution.

"I am very concerned with the loss of life but I have also been saying consistently for a long time that we need to find a long-term solution to Gaza," Ashton said.

"I have been there three times and we have to find a way to prevent the kind of violent rocket attacks we have seen and also to bring some security and peace to the people of the region"

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Israel had a right to self-defense, but also called on the country to show restraint.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is due in Egypt on November 19 to throw his support behind Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi's efforts to broker a truce.

Ban is also scheduled to visit Israel.

China on November 19 called for "maximum restraint" by all parties, especially Israel, in the Gaza Strip conflict.

Several days of Hamas rocket attacks into Israel prompted the Jewish state on November 14 to start a military operation codenamed Pillar of Defense.

Israeli warplanes and missiles launched from land and sea have destroyed suspected Hamas targets in Gaza.

Three Israeli civilians have been killed in a Hamas rocket explosion.

With reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and Al-Jazeera


Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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