Middle East

Thursday 21 August 2014

Israel bombards Gaza with wave of deadly air strikes

Ben Lynfield

Published 09/07/2014 | 02:30

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Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. At least 16 people were killed in strikes across Gaza on Tuesday. Inset: People carry a Palestinian whom medics said was wounded in an Israeli air strike. Reuters
A trail of smoke after a rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel is seen from a lookout point near the Israeli town of Sderot July 8, 2014. Israel bombarded the Gaza Strip on Tuesday in strikes that Palestinian officials said killed at least 11 people, stepping up what threatens to become a long-term offensive against Islamist group Hamas after scores of rockets hit Israeli towns. REUTERS/Baz Ratner (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)
A trail of smoke after a rocket is launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel is seen from a lookout point near the Israeli town of Sderot. Reuters
Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Smoke and flames are seen following what police said was an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. At least 16 people were killed in strikes across Gaza on Tuesday. Reuters

Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed 11 Palestinians yesterday, according to Gaza officials, on the first day of what promises to be a sustained military operation aimed at dealing a blow to the militant group Hamas and halting cross-border rocket attacks.

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Gaza residents huddled indoors during the aerial onslaught, which was reinforced by shelling from Israeli navy ships off the coast. Residents of Ashdod, 20 miles south of Tel Aviv, and elsewhere in southern Israel, rushed to safety rooms when alarms sounded to signal incoming fire, as more than 70 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel, according to the army's count.

A military spokeswoman said the Israeli air force carried out 50 strikes in Gaza overnight on Monday and another 40 yesterday. The army named the bombardments "Operation Protective Edge" and an official said an all-out ground operation into the Strip was "not a preference but it is an option".

The official added: "We have instructed the military to prepare for it so that if contingencies demand it, it will be ready. We are hitting Hamas hard and don't want to come out of this with a situation that in two weeks we face more rocketing. We don't want an artificial ending that doesn't solve the issue. We want people in southern Israel to live a normal life."

Some of the Israeli targets were allegedly the homes of militants. The Reuters news agency, citing the Hamas interior ministry, reported from Gaza that at least six people were killed and about 25 wounded in an attack on a house. Residents told the agency the house belonged to the family of a Hamas member and the casualties occurred when it came under attack for a second time yesterday. Residents said that after the first strike people gathered on the roof to serve as human shields, hoping their presence would prevent a second attack. The army said it was checking the matter. A child was killed and two others wounded in an air strike on the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood in Gaza City, a Palestinian news agency reported. Reuters said four others died in an air strike in Gaza City, according to officials, and that one of them was identified by a pro-Hamas website as a commander of the group's armed wing.

The Israeli government, led by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured) sanctioned the call-up of 40,000 reservist troops. Officials were quoted as telling the military to conduct a "continuous, long and forceful operation in Gaza", and to "take off the gloves".

But yesterday's strikes, the most intensive since an eight-day war almost two years ago, were not powerful enough to satisfy hard-right Israeli politicians. "The paradox is that in order for us not to go in, the other side has to be convinced we are willing to go to the end," Tourism minister Uzi Landau told Israel Radio. Meanwhile, the armed wing of Hamas threatened an "earthquake" in response to the Israeli attacks. Hamas is believed to have rockets that can travel beyond Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Last night, air-raid sirens could be heard in Tel Aviv. In the city of Ashdod, one person was wounded by shrapnel from a rocket. (©

(Independent News Service)

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