Israel and Hamas continue to fight
Published 19/11/2012 | 05:28
Israel and Hamas have continued to bombard each other as attempts began to broker a cease-fire after six days of death and destruction.
Israeli aircraft struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior militant with a missile on a media centre, driving up the Palestinian death toll to 96.
Hamas fighters have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel, including 75 today, including one that hit an empty school. Schools in the south of the country have been closed since the offensive began last Wednesday. Twenty rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system. Others landed in open areas of Beersheva, Ashdod, Asheklon.
Escalating its bombing campaign over the weekend, Israel began attacking homes of Hamas activists leading to a rise in civilian casualties.
The rising toll came as Egyptian-led efforts to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas got into gear. While Israel and Hamas were far apart in their demands, both sides said they were open to a diplomatic solution - and prepared for further escalation if that failed.
The leader of Hamas took a tough stance, rejecting Israel's demands to stop its rocket fire. Instead, Khaled Mashaal said, Israel must meet Hamas' demands for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza. "We don't accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor. We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands," he said.
An Israeli official said it hoped to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis as well and signalled Egypt was likely to play a key role in enforcing any truce.
A poll published in the Haaretz newspaper showed widespread support in Israel for the offensive. It said that 84% of the public supports the operation, with 12% opposed. At the same time, it said just 30% of the public supports a ground invasion of Gaza.
The offensive has also wounded more than 700 people, Gaza heath official Ashraf al-Kidra said. Among them were 225 children.
On the Israeli side, three civilians have died from Palestinian rocket fire and dozens have been wounded. The defence system has intercepted hundreds of rockets bound for populated areas. In the latest violence an Israeli airstrike on a high-rise building in Gaza City killed Ramez Harb, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad's military wing, the Al Quds Brigades.
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