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Israeli Airstrikes Kill More Than 270 in Gaza


Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is saying the Palestinians could have avoided the ongoing attacks by Israel if the militant group Hamas had continued its six-month truce with the Jewish state.

Mr. Abbas Sunday in Cairo called on his rivals to renew their truce with Israel in order to prevent further bloodshed in Gaza. Egypt's foreign minister Ahmed Abul Gheit also called on Hamas to extend the truce.

Palestinian officials say Israel's massive, two-day military assault on Gaza has killed at least 271 people. Israel says the attack is in response to last week's series of rocket and mortar attacks that wounded Israeli civilians.

Airstrikes today included the destruction of a mosque in Gaza city. Two people were killed. Israeli officials say the mosque was being used as a base for terrorist activities.

Israeli warplanes and helicopters destroyed more than 40 Hamas security installations across Gaza Saturday, including compounds hosting graduation ceremonies for new recruits.

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has warned the operation against Hamas will expand as necessary. Officials say Israel's Cabinet today approved a callup of reserve soldiers for its Gaza offensive.

Hamas has vowed to avenge the attacks with more rocket strikes and suicide bombings. Palestinian militants fired more than 50 rockets into southern Israel Saturday, killing one person.

The head of the Hamas government in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said the group would not back down.

In Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal urged Palestinians to wage a new intifada or uprising against Israel.

Palestinian medical officials and Hamas said the majority of those killed were Hamas members, including Gaza's police chief and another security official. They said at least 15 Palestinian civilians were among the dead. Another 700 people were wounded Saturday in one of the bloodiest days for the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said civilian casualties would be avoided in Gaza, and that Hamas is Israel's target. He also pledged to avert a humanitarian crisis.

Tensions between Israel and Hamas have escalated since a six-month cease-fire expired earlier this month. The Israeli raid follows days of rocket and mortar attacks on Israel by militants in Gaza.

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

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