News / Middle East

Israel, Gaza Continue Rocket Exchanges as Israel Readies Ground Forces

Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles gather in a staging ground near the border with Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
Israeli soldiers with armored vehicles gather in a staging ground near the border with Gaza Strip, southern Israel, Friday, Nov. 16, 2012.
VOA News
Aerial volleys between Israel and Hamas-led Gaza continued Friday with one rocket landing in a field outside Jerusalem.

Israel responded by calling up additional military reserves and shutting down the main roads around the Gaza Strip.

Air raid sirens wailed through Jerusalem, but Israeli officials said there were no injuries or damage. A statement from Hamas claimed responsibility.

Palestinian and Arab leaders are decrying Israel's offensive.

Palestinians marched through the streets of Gaza City shouting their defiance, while, from the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas addressed the Palestinian people.

  • Smoke billows from the site of an Israeli airstrike in Gaza City, November 21, 2012.
  • A Palestinian man reacts as flames and smoke rise from a smuggling tunnel after an Israeli strike along the border between Egypt and Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, November 21, 2012.
  • Israelis look at a blown up bus at the site of a bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 21, 2012.
  • Israeli rescue workers and paramedics carry a wounded person from the site of a bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel, November 21, 2012.
  • Palestinian children stand in rubble after an Israeli strike on a house in Gaza City, November 20, 2012.
  • An Israeli soldier stands on a tank at a staging area near the Israel-Gaza Strip Border, November 20, 2012.
  • A Palestinian inspects the damage to a soccer stadium after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, November 19, 2012.
  • Smoke and fire rise up from an explosion in Gaza City, November 19, 2012.
  • A Palestinian man waves the national flag during a protest against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the city of Ramallah, November 18, 2012.
  • An Israeli police officer gestures in front of a burning car after a rocket fired by Palestinian militants in Gaza landed in the southern city of Ashkelon, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)
  • Members of the Palestinian Civil Defense help a survivor after he was pulled out from under the rubble of his destroyed house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City, November 18, 2012.
  • An Iron Dome launcher fires an interceptor rocket in the southern city of Ashdod, Israel, November 16, 2012.
  • A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012.
  • An Israeli soldier runs with his weapon during a drill simulating a possible ground invasion into the Gaza Strip, at a base south of the West Bank city of Hebron, November 17, 2012.

Abbas urged all Palestinians to put aside their differences and unite, though he said he had been unable to contact Hamas leaders.

Israel's Iron Dome missile interception system continued to fire away on Friday, destroying more than 130 rockets. But Israeli Defense Forces [IDF] said more than 330 rockets from Gaza have landed in Israel since Wednesday. Israel also has been massing tanks along the border with Gaza.  

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday there will be no letdown in Israel's resolve.

"We are of course operating powerfully against the launch of rockets to central Israel and southern Israel. We are prepared, if needed, to broaden the operation in a significant way,'' said Netanyahu.

Israel said that since Wednesday it has targeted 450 of what it called terrorist sites in Gaza.

The two sides have exchanged hundreds of aerial bombardments, leaving three Israelis and at least 20 Palestinians dead.

Egypt said Friday that it hoped to help pave the way for an end to hostilities.

Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Kandil visited Gaza, promising Egypt "will make every effort and make sacrifices to stop this aggression and to achieve a truce."

Back in Cairo, however, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi lashed out at what he called the Israeli aggression.

"We see what is happening in Gaza, in terms of aggression and the killing of men, women and children, and blood being shed. This is a very dangerous matter," said Morsi. "And this unacceptable aggression on human beings, on men and women, and this is an issue. I warn them again, and that I confirm again, for those who are carrying out the aggression - that they will never rule over the people of Gaza. We will not leave Gaza on its own. We will not leave Gaza on its own.''

Despite Morsi's harsh words, U.S. President Barack Obama telephoned the Egyptian president Friday to discuss the situation and commend Egypt's efforts to defuse the tensions.

Obama also spoke with Netanyahu. The White House said Netanyahu thanked the United States for helping Israel develop a missile defense system called the Iron Dome.  The prime minister said the system has knocked out hundreds of rockets, saving countless Israeli lives.

Israeli Defense Forces spokesman Eytan Buchman said that Israel has put a significant dent in Hamas' ability to strike. But he said the fact that Palestinian rockets are still flying means that not enough has been done and that Israel is ready to expand its operations in Gaza.

"We've reached a point where Hamas is becoming increasingly brazen. They are managing with extensive Iranian assistance to get very advanced weapons, and at some point you have to stop with the restraint and you have to move in and score decisively enough to re-energize the deterrence and change the rules of the game so they know that it's not acceptable," said Buchman. "The fact that we’ve shown restraint for so many years shouldn't mean, ‘Hey, why are you attacking now?’ it should mean, ‘Why didn’t you do this earlier?’  We didn’t do this earlier because the Middle East is a volatile  area. And we were trying to deal with the situation in other ways. At this point, after 800 rockets that were fired this year, it just became time to change the situation."

Palestinian representatives have so far not replied to VOA's request for a comment.

Meanwhile, tensions have boiled over into Jerusalem, where Muslim Palestinian worshippers clashed with Israeli police outside of some of Islam's holy sites.  

Anger over the Israeli air assault have also sparked protests in Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan, while pro-Israel and pro-Palestinians supporters have faced off in protests in the United States.

Protests also erupted in Turkey, where Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israeli leaders of carrying out a pre-election stunt.

"Before this election they [Israel] shot these innocent people in Gaza for reasons they fabricated,'' said Erdogan.

Meanwhile, civilians on both sides of the conflict are being urged to take precautions while emergency supplies are being rushed to affected areas. On Friday, trucks of supplies crossed into Gaza from Egypt.

Saif Allah Imam is with the Egyptian Doctor's Syndicate, which is collaborating with the Egyptian Red Crescent.

"We brought with us five loaded trucks, plus two other truck loads, which we already delivered. As well as the delegation which includes the Egyptian Health delegation of the Ministry of Health and the Syndicate for Egyptian doctors,'' said Imam.

Concern in Israel also spread after two Palestinian rocket attacks hit outside Israel's economic capital of Tel Aviv.

"First I heard the siren. Then I heard the explosive. In the Water. In the water. I saw the water fly in the air,'' said one unidentified male resident who witnessed the rockets attacks.

Palestinian militants issued a statement claiming responsibility for at least one of the attacks, saying they had fired Iranian-made rockets.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the attacks show why Israel has no choice but to use its military to retaliate.
 
"The attempt last night by the terrorists in Gaza to launch rockets on Tel Aviv only underscores the danger that the Israeli public faces in this formidable military machine in Gaza," said Regev. "And what the Israeli government is doing today, what the action that we are taking is designed to do, is to remove that threat, to free the Israeli people from this constant threat of rocket launches from the Gaza Strip."  

Israel began its military offensive Wednesday using a missile strike to kill the top military commander of Hamas in Gaza. Israel dropped leaflets warning Gazans to stay away from buildings and locations run by the military wing of Hamas.

Hamas vowed revenge and warned that Israel had opened up what it calls "the gates of hell."  

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has repeated its call for the U.N. Security Council to take action to end Israeli air raids on Gaza. On Friday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would visit in two to three days.

The head of the secret service in Gaza, Tawfeek Tirawi, has accused Israel of war crimes.

Israel/Gaza Timeline
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by: Mark Stevens from: Boston,Mass.
November 17, 2012 10:23 AM
Until the Gaza Strip is made a part of Israel,no peace will endure.In the best interest of world peace (if such a thing is possible) re-settlement of Gaza residents is the sole option.I understand this statement will ire some,but it seems as if peace will only come with Israel taking this contested land,once and for all.

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 9:24 AM
here is what the new idiotic Egyptian Prime Minister said in Gaza... "in the name of all the Egyptian people - Egypt today is not the Egypt of yesterday, and Arabs today are not the Arabs of yesterday..." and then he fled Gaza... well, the truth is that Egypt is degenerating into a lawless criminality and complete incoherence.

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 3:18 AM
And in more concerning news Israel... IAEA: Iran ready to boost uranium enrichment.

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 3:17 AM
Hey Israel!! Why don't you do the world a favour and go into Syria and help those people??? If you want war so much do that... Quit picking on the Palestinian people, they have it hard enough as it is. Extinguish the Syrian army, and win the hearts and minds of the Syrian people instead... That would be a good war training mission too :).

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 3:14 AM
Hey! Leader of Israel! Nobody ever said doing what is right is easy... Put your guns down, and learn to love your neighbours. It is the right way to a peacefull tomorrow. Don't think invading Gaza is going to make it any better at all, it won't, period. It will create more hatred for years to come. You already took lots from the Palestinians, and oppressed them to hell. It's time you be nice for a change.

by: Anonymous
November 17, 2012 3:10 AM
I happen to be a happy westerner. I have never understood the constant hastles the Israelis have created for the people of Gaza. You would think people of Israel would be a little more pleasent to others considering what the Jewish people went through in ww2. I can't get over how war hungry and paranoid Israel is, and now about to start a war with a defenceless area of Gaza. Years and years of oppressing the people of Gaza, and still at it. What the Israelis are about to do, is almost no different than what Assad is doing to people.

As a westerner I am disgusted my countries leader stands back and says nothing to Israel, Israel needs to be told to "Respect Others" and "Stop" their racist actions. Worry about themselves.

by: Nguyen Tam Dung from: Hanoi
November 17, 2012 1:23 AM
Islam and Hamas well-known for their aggressive manner, they always provoke Israel to respond so it is justified for Israel to assault back for self-defense. That's good Israel to eliminate these terrorists in disguise of Iran.

by: Igor from: Russia
November 16, 2012 9:04 PM
Israel is just a small country in the Middle East surrounded by many other muslim countries. If Israel only resorts to military and force to ensure its security, it will never have peace for long because violence breeds violence, hatred breeds hatred. To have a long-lasting peace, Israel must follow the policy "returning good for evil" or "heaping coals of fire on its enemy's head", helping other peoples to develop their economy by investing in economic projects, co-operating in medical, agriculture fields...Gradually, the hatred will be replaced by trust, sincerity and friendship and there will be no ground for the extremists. unfortunately, we cannot find such policy in Judaism or Islam so there are wars after wars in the Middle East. Jews should learn it from Buddism.
Israeli Government is following the policy which leads its nation to destruction and extermination.

by: A. L. from: USA
November 16, 2012 8:27 PM
Let the meek speak up--and by the meek I mean those who see all this war-mongering for exactly what it is.
Speak up for peace--preserving the lives of the innocent, because, in the words of someone much wiser than me, war is not good for children and growing things.

by: Canadian Mom from: Canada 1812
November 16, 2012 5:54 PM
I would like to express Canada unalloyed solidarity love and admiration for Israel. I hope our Government start considering seriously the deportation of all Muslims from here to Muslim countries. We do not want to live in fear of terrorism by these Islamic degenerates. I do not want to have my children fear for taking the local Bus, or for having a night out at the local Mall. if Stephen Harper likes his seat... he had better propose some strong measures to keep these Muslims out of here... and those who have managed to be here be put on strict notice that if they import their vile religion to our shores they and their families should be deported.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: Canada
November 16, 2012 11:27 PM
Hear Hear...!!!
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