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Israel Continues Gaza Offensive, at Least 50 Palestinians Killed

Israel has launched more air strikes against Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip. At least 50 Palestinians, mostly militants, and an Israeli soldier have been killed in the offensive, which is in its 12th day. Israel has brushed off a Palestinian cease-fire offer and international criticism.

Israel's Cabinet decided to press on with the offensive in Gaza, until Palestinian militants halt rocket attacks and release a soldier kidnapped two weeks ago.

Israel has rejected a cease-fire offer from the Palestinian government, led by the Islamic militant group Hamas. The offer did not include the release of the captive soldier, and Hamas says he will not be freed, until Israel agrees to release Palestinian prisoners.

Israeli Defense Ministry official David Hacham says that is unacceptable.

"The Israeli position is very cut and clear. We are not going to negotiate, to make any kind of any discussions with any of the Palestinian organizations, movements, which were behind the kidnap of the Israeli soldier," Hacham says.

Stepping up the pressure on Hamas, Israeli aircraft attacked Palestinian targets across Gaza. The army said a key bridge was destroyed to prevent militants from transporting rockets to launch sites.

Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad urged Israel to accept the cease-fire offer and negotiate a prisoner exchange.

"Also, Israel is interested to bring the soldier alive. And they know very well that by military escalation they will not achieve their goal," Hamad says

The United Nations harshly criticized Israel, saying its offensive was causing a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as well as death and injury to Palestinian civilians. Israel rejects the criticism, saying it is allowing food, fuel, and medical supplies into Gaza.

Israeli officials say most of the Palestinians killed in the operation were armed militants, and that Israel is making every effort to avoid civilian casualties.