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Israeli Offensive Kills Senior Hamas Commander

An Israeli air strike killed a senior Hamas commander in Gaza Saturday as the military offensive against the Islamist faction entered its second week. From his base in the Syrian capital Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal issued a warning to Israel.

The sounds of explosions again rocked Gaza on Saturday as Israeli air strikes continued for the eighth consecutive day.

Israel has been targeting senior Hamas militants. On Saturday, senior commander Abu Zakaria al-Jamal was killed in an Israeli air strike, two days after another militant leader, Nizar Rayyan and his family were killed in a bomb attack.

Medical officials in Gaza say more than 420 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive and over 2,000 injured. U.N. officials estimate that a quarter of those killed were civilians.

Israel has also massed troops, tanks and artillery around Gaza in preparation for a possible ground offensive.

In a televised address carried by Arab media from Damascus, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal had his own warning for Israel.

His message was clear - if you enter Gaza, our fighters will be waiting for you.

Meshaal warned of a "dark fate" if Israeli troops move into Gaza and said they would end up killed or captured.

Israel says it had no choice but to strike at Hamas militant targets in Gaza, after truce talks with Hamas broke down and the Islamist group stepped up rocket attacks against southern Israel. Four Israelis have been killed in those attacks.

But televised footage of Gaza houses and mosques being bombed, wounded Palestinian children bloodied and crying, mangled bodies being dug out of the rubble have been shown across the region.

These images have fueled anger across the Muslim world and elsewhere. Thousands have turned out in anti-Israel protests in Arab and other capitals around the world and there are increasing calls for an immediate halt to the violence.

Israel has made it clear it is not yet ready to stop and Hamas says it is not begging for a truce either.

In his weekly radio address Saturday, US President George Bush said Washington is working for a cease-fire, but he said a one-sided accord would not be acceptable.

"There must be monitoring mechanisms in place to help ensure that smuggling of weapons to terrorist groups in Gaza comes to an end," he said.

Mr. Bush put the blame squarely on Hamas and said its rocket attacks on Israel are an act of terror.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is due in the region Monday as part of growing diplomatic efforts to stop the fighting.