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Netanyahu says ground invasion of Gaza possible

By Reuters in Gaza and Jerusalem | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-09 07:33

Prime minister: Military forces must be prepared to 'go all the way'

Israel bombarded dozens of targets in the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, stepping up what it said might become a long-term offensive against Hamas in response to a surge in Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns.

Following the worst outbreak of violence along the Gaza frontier since an eight-day war in 2012, the Israeli military said a ground invasion of the enclave was possible, though not imminent, and urged citizens within a range of 40 km of the coastal territory to stay close to bomb shelters.

"We are preparing for a battle against Hamas which will not end within a few days," Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said in a statement.

"We will not tolerate missiles being fired at Israeli towns, and we are prepared to extend the operations with all means at our disposal in order to keep hitting Hamas."

A source in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office quoted the Israeli leader as saying of the Israel Defense Forces: "The IDF must be ready to go all the way. All options are on the table, including a ground invasion."

The Israel-Gaza border heated up after Israel's arrest of hundreds of Hamas activists in the occupied West Bank, where three Israeli youths went missing on June 12.

More than 200 rockets have been launched at Israel from Gaza, the military said, since Israel mounted a search for the teens, who were found dead last week.

Israel has accused Hamas militants of killing the youths. In a suspected revenge attack, a Palestinian teen was abducted in East Jerusalem on July 3. His charred body was found in a forest. Six Israeli suspects were arrested.

In Gaza, a Hamas fighter was killed in an airstrike in Nusseirat refugee camp, Palestinian medical officials said.

Palestinian officials said targets included militants' training facilities, while six homes were bombed in Gaza and 30 people were wounded.

The Israeli military said that in the past 24 hours, more than 100 rockets had been fired at Israel, a sharp increase.

Some 1,500 Israeli reservists were mobilized, and more could be called up.

Explosions echoed across Gaza on Tuesday, shaking buildings and sending smoke rising from targets hit by Israeli fire. In residential areas, the sounds of crying children could be heard as ambulance sirens wailed. Some people took to rooftops to watch for Israeli aircraft and rockets streaking toward Israel.

Racing for cover

In the Israeli city of Ashdod, motorists scrambled out of their vehicles and raced for the relative safety of apartment house entrances as a siren sounded. The scene was repeated in other towns near Gaza.

Hamas' armed wing, the dominant force in the enclave, threatened an "earthquake" in response to Israel's attacks.

The Israeli military, announcing it had launched "Operation Protective Edge", said it targeted about 50 sites in aerial and naval assaults overnight and resumed airstrikes on Tuesday morning after rockets were fired at southern Israeli towns.

In one Israeli attack overnight that destroyed a Gaza home, the Palestinian Interior Ministry said the family received a telephone call from an Israeli officer telling them to leave. But the ministry said nine neighbors were wounded.

(China Daily 07/09/2014 page12)

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