News / Middle East

Israel Threatens to Expand Gaza Offensive

Israeli soldiers work on their a tanks in a staging ground in southern Israel, near the border with Gaza Strip, November 17, 2012.
Israeli soldiers work on their a tanks in a staging ground in southern Israel, near the border with Gaza Strip, November 17, 2012.
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Robert Berger
— Israel’s military offensive in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip is continuing for a fifth day, and there has been no let up in the Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. In all, at least 53 Palestinians have been killed, including 24 civilians, and three Israeli civilians have also died.

Israel launched dozens of air strikes Sunday on Gaza, targeting the ruling Islamic militant group Hamas. The military said warplanes hit Palestinian rocket-launching sites, a training base and a command center. Two media centers housing Palestinian and foreign journalists were also hit in Gaza City.

  • 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.

Israel said the aim of the operation is to stop Palestinian rocket attacks, but that goal has not been achieved.

Hamas and other Palestinian groups fired dozens of rockets at southern Israel, damaging cars, houses and apartment buildings.

Israel’s Iron Dome defense system intercepted many of the rockets, including two that were fired at Tel Aviv. The Israeli-made system, which fires interceptor missiles, has knocked more than 200 Palestinian rockets out of the sky since the conflict began on Wednesday.

At the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel has attacked more than 1,000 targets in Gaza, and he issued a tough warning.

“We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and other terrorist organizations,” Mr. Netanyahu said, “and the army is prepared to significantly expand the offensive.”

That could include a possible ground assault. The military has called up thousands of reservists and is massing armor and troops on the Gaza border.

The specter of a bloody ground invasion has prompted Egypt to step up efforts for a cease-fire. A senior member of Hamas, Mousa Abu Marzook, met with Egyptian officials in Cairo.

Abu Marzook said Hamas supports a return to normalcy and a truce. But he set out conditions, namely that Israel must end air strikes on Gaza and stop the targeted killings of Hamas military commanders.

Egypt said a senior Israeli official has arrived in Cairo for talks on a cease-fire.

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