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November 17, 2012

Israel, Hamas Exchange Fierce Attacks

by VOA News

Israel and Hamas exchanged fierce attacks Saturday, as Israeli forces continued massing along the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground invasion.

The Israeli military carried out more t​​200 air strikes on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip Saturday, targeting government buildings including the office of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and the Hamas Cabinet. Haniyeh was not there at the time.  

Israeli missiles also hit rocket launching sites and weapons smuggling tunnels.

Israel has positioned tanks and other armored vehicles along the Gaza border, and has shut down main roads around the territory, a sign it could be ready to launch a ground offensive.  Israel's Cabinet has authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 reservists.
 
Meanwhile, Hamas rocket fire continued as far north as Tel Aviv, where sirens wailed Saturday.

Israel's military said its new "Iron Dome" missile defense system shot down a rocket bound for Tel Aviv, one of several Hamas has fired at Israel's commercial center.  The Israeli government said "Iron Dome" has intercepted nearly 250 of the hundreds of Hamas rockets fired since the conflict began a few days ago. One rocket landed Friday in a field outside Jerusalem.
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​​Palestinian officials say 42 people have died in Gaza, including militants and civilians, since the Israelis began their air strikes a few days ago. Hamas rockets have killed three Israeli civilians. About 10 Israelis including some soldiers were injured by rocket fire on Saturday.

In Cairo Saturday, Arab League foreign ministers held an emergency meeting and condemned Israel for its attacks in the Gaza Strip.

The White House said President Barack Obama was in touch with Egyptian and Turkish leaders about ending the conflict.

An Israeli missile Wednesday killed the top military commander of Hamas in Gaza.  Israel said the killing was in direct response to the almost daily rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza.

In the last Gaza war, Israel carried out a fierce air and ground offensive during a three-week period between 2008 and 2009.  More than 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

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