News / Middle East

Israeli Strikes Kill 21 Palestinians, Gaza Rockets Wound 10 Israelis

A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)
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A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)
A Palestinian man kisses the body of one of his children during their funeral in the northern Gaza Strip, November 18, 2012. (Reuters)
Palestinian medics say Israeli strikes on Gaza have killed at least 21 Palestinians in the deadliest day of Israel's five-day offensive to stop rocket fire by Gaza militants onto its territory.

Israeli warplanes struck several buildings in Gaza City on Sunday, including a multi-story house where the medics say at least 11 civilians were killed, mostly women and children.  It is not clear whether militants were among the casualties.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Ilana Stein says that one of the air strikes was aimed at the Hamas commander of rocket operations in northern Gaza, but that his fate is not known.  She acknowledged that some Gaza civilians have been killed by Israeli warplanes targeting militants.

Palestinian medics say the death toll from the Israeli offensive has risen to at least 67 Palestinian civilians and militants since last Wednesday.  Palestinian rocket attacks have killed three Israeli civilians.

The Israeli military reported at least 114 rockets fired against Israel Sunday. The military says the Iron Dome defense system intercepted 36 rockets, including several aimed at Tel Aviv, the fourth straight day the city has been targeted.  Other rockets struck residential areas in southern Israel, wounding about 10 civilians, five of them in a car that was hit in the town of Ofakim.

U.S. President Barack Obama says efforts to resolve the fighting must begin with Gaza militants ending their rocket barrage of Israel.  He spoke on Sunday while on a visit to the Thailand.

Mr. Obama reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to defend itself and said it would be "preferable" to end the missile fire without an Israeli escalation of its offensive.  Mr. Obama said he has had several conversations with the leaders of Israel, Egypt and Turkey in recent days to try to achieve that goal.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday he is prepared to "significantly expand" operations against Gaza militants.  His government has massed thousands of troops on Israel's border with Gaza in preparation for a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run territory.

An Israeli official arrived in Cairo for Egyptian-mediated talks on a potential truce with Hamas.  Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement has ideological ties to the Palestinian group.  Cairo also maintains a peace agreement with Israel.

While in Bangkok, Mr. Obama said that supporters of the Palestinian cause should recognize that further escalation of the Israel-Hamas conflict would mean that efforts to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process will be "pushed way into the future."

In Sunday's strikes on Gaza, Israeli warplanes also attacked two adjacent buildings housing media offices, wounding eight journalists, one of whom lost a leg.  Israel's military said it attacked communications equipment used by Hamas and urged reporters to stay away from militant positions and operatives.

The media rights group Reporters Without Borders condemned Israel, accusing it of obstructing freedom of information.  The group also demanded an immediate end to such attacks. Israel says it has no intention of harming members of the foreign media and that it continues to allow them to enter Gaza to do their work.

Israel began its offensive with a November 14 air strike that killed Hamas's military leader in Gaza.  It said the attack was in response to weeks of intensifying rocket fire from Gaza on southern Israeli communities.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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