Israel prepares for possible Gaza ground offensive against Hamas
There were indications in Israel last night that the government was preparing for a major offensive into Gaza.
After a day of further exchanges between the Israeli Defence Forces and Gaza-based militants, in which rockets were targeted at Jerusalem for the first time, the Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu held an emergency cabinet consultation.
After speaking to colleagues by phone, a call-up of army reservists was increased from 30,000 to 75,000.
Last night, the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon condemned the rocket attacks, called for an immediate halt to them and also urged restraint on Israel.
“The secretary general is extremely concerned about the continued violence in Gaza and Israel, and deeply worried by the rising cost in terms of civilian lives,” UN spokesman Martin Nesirky said. “Rocket attacks are unacceptable and must stop at once. Israel must exercise maximum restraint.”
Some 150 rockets were fired from Gaza yesterday. Since Israeli operations began on Wednesday, more than 500 targets have been hit in Gaza.
Officials in Gaza said 28 Palestinians had been killed since Israel began the air offensive with the declared aim of stemming rocket strikes that have disrupted life in southern Israeli towns.
The Palestinian dead include 12 militants and 16 civilians, among them eight children and a pregnant woman. Three Israelis were killed by a rocket on Thursday.
A Hamas source said the Israeli air force launched an attack on the house of Hamas’s commander for southern Gaza which resulted in the death of two civilians, one a child.
Israeli Defence Force spokesman Brig Gen Yoav Mordechai said last night that every rocket fired would elicit a response, urging Hamas militants to “find places to hide”.
Earlier, Egypt’s prime minister Hisham Kandil cut short a visit to Gaza after, according to Israeli sources, rockets were fired from Gaza at several parts of southern Israel and Israel responded.
Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi pledged to support Gaza against “blatant aggression” by Israel yesterday as violence escalated and hopes of an imminent ceasefire receded.