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Israel Escalates Gaza Offensive in Day 2

by Robert Berger July 09, 2014

Israel has escalated attacks on the Gaza Strip in the second day of a major offensive. Palestinian officials say at least three dozen people have been killed in Gaza this week.

Explosions rocked Gaza, as Israel launched more than 200 air strikes against the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions. The Israeli military said targets include the homes of Hamas leaders, smuggling tunnels and weapons depots.

There have been more than 400 air strikes since the offensive began on Tuesday, aimed at stopping a wave of Palestinian rocket attacks.

Israel's Strategic Affair Minister Yuval Steinitz said there is much more to come.

'This offensive will not be short,' Steinitz told Israel Radio, 'because we are determined to restore peace and quiet to the citizens of Israel.' He said the army would impose a severe blow on the military capabilities of Hamas.

Steinitz said Israel also is preparing for a possible ground offensive, after the government authorized the army to call up 40,000 reservists.

Hamas strikes deep

Hamas is not backing down. It continues to fire rockets deeper into Israel. Many of the rockets have been shot down by Israel's Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Israel reported no deaths, but air raid sirens could be heard in the key Israeli business center of Tel Aviv, in Jerusalem and beyond as Hamas fired rockets deeper into Israel than ever before.

Israeli media reported that two rockets landed in the Mediterranean Sea near the northern port city of Haifa, 165 kilometers from Gaza, and the government said Hamas has dozens of longer-range rockets.

Hamas official Mushir Al Masri was speaking to reporters in Gaza as a bomb struck nearby. He said if Israel thinks 'it can empty Hamas' weapons arsenals in days, weeks or months, it is gravely mistaken. He said Hamas has endurance and it is prepared to fight for a long time.

​​Intense fighting

Israeli military mission, 'Operation Protective Edge,' is aimed at blocking Hamas from firing rockets at Israel. The offensive, however, has set off the most intense fighting between Israel and Hamas since an eight-day battle in late 2012.

Israeli public security minister Yitzhak Aharonovich vowed to continue the assault on Gaza.

'We will not stop. They'll first receive a hard blow, from both the air and the sea,' said Aharonovich. 'And if a ground invasion is needed, there will be a ground invasion. All options are open, but we need to restore calm.'

Pillars of black smoke from the bombing targets filled the skies in densely populated Gaza. Palestinian rescue and medical officials sifted through the wreckage at the 430 sites Israel said its warplanes had hit since the operation began early Tuesday.

Hundreds of mourners carried the bodies of those killed in raucous funeral processions through Gaza streets.

Obama urges peace

U.S. President Barack Obama said in a column published Wednesday in Germany that 'everyone involved' should act in a sensible and measured way, rather than seek revenge or retaliation. His words were published in the German newspaper Die Zeit. He reiterated U.S. support for a two-state, Israeli-Palestinian solution and added that 'both sides must be prepared to accept risks for peace.'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a televised statement late Tuesday in which he called on international bodies such as the Mideast Quartet and the United Nations Security Council to 'take responsibility to guarantee the safety' of the Palestinian people. He asked Palestinians to be 'united and patient' and promised the government would do its best to fulfill their needs.

Israel's defense chief, Moshe Ya'alon, said Tuesday the country is prepared for a campaign 'which will not end within days.'

Israeli tanks and other armored vehicles were seen massing near the Gaza border, and a military spokesman said the army was recruiting reserve troops for a potential ground mission.

The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian youth have helped to further escalate tensions in the past week. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas have condemned the acts and vowed to punish those responsible.

Israeli investigators said this week that three of six Jewish suspects accused of killing 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir have confessed to the crime and re-enacted it for authorities. It is believed the Palestinian was killed as revenge for the deaths of the Israeli teens.

Israel blames Hamas for the killing of the Israeli youths. Hamas has denied responsibility.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.



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