News Middle East

Saturday 30 August 2014

Gaza family wiped out by bomb as Israel plans invasion

Published 19/11/2012 | 07:52

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A Palestinian carries the body of a child from the rubble of a house after an Israeli air strike in Gaza City yesterday
A Palestinian man uses his iPad to take pictures of a house destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip

Gaza suffered its bloodiest day since Israel launched a military offensive in the Hamas-controlled enclave, with a sharp escalation in the ferocity of attacks from both sides amid frenzied last-minute diplomacy to try to forestall an Israeli ground assault.

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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed a “significant expansion” of Israel’s military onslaught, even as an Israeli envoy was reported to be travelling to Cairo for ceasefire talks with Egyptian mediators. Nabeel Sha’ath, a senior Fatah official, was dispatched to Gaza by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to intercede with the leaders of the rival Hamas group.



At least four Israelis were injured as Palestinian groups unleashed repeated barrages of rockets at Beersheba, Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod throughout the day. There were several direct hits on homes and cars. One Grad rocket hit the roof of a four-storey apartment block in Ashkelon and drilled through to the second floor.



“The apartment was torn to pieces. It’s a miracle I am still alive,” 71-year-old father of nine Malai Molalem told The Independent, huddling in a bomb shelter as the hollow boom of falling rockets sounded again and again.



Hamas fired two long-range Fajr 5 missiles at Tel Aviv, 40 miles away, making four attempts in three days. They were both destroyed by the Iron Dome missile defence system.



Addressing the Israeli cabinet in Jerusalem, Mr Netanyahu said Israel had attacked more than 1,000 targets since Wednesday and was “achieving significant hits on weapons aimed at Israeli citizens, as well as on those who use these weapons and those who dispatch them.”



“The IDF is prepared for a significant expansion of its operations,” Mr Netanyahu warned as the cabinet approved the mobilisation of 75,000 troops. Roads were blocked as thousands of reservists and military transporters loaded with tanks and armoured cars rumbled southwards.



With rumours of an imminent ground offensive, other countries in the region moved to try and find a negotiated settlement.



In Cairo, President Mohammed Morsi was reported to be putting intense pressure on Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to agree to a ceasefire. Egyptian officials confirmed that an Israeli envoy had arrived in the city but radicals on both sides appeared to be digging in their heels.



Ziad Nakhleh, deputy leader of Islamic Jihad, told the Al Hayat daily it was time to teach Israel a lesson.



“We don’t fear them, the resistance is too strong and capable of confronting them,” said Mr Nakhleh. “We hit the belly of Israel. The prime minister and leaders of Israel were forced to go to shelters. Israel wants calm. Egypt wants it to stop the bloodshed. We also want to preserve our dignity as Palestinians. The siege on Gaza Strip should be lifted, the crossings should be opened, the Palestinians should be treated well. We will not accept a humiliating offer.”

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