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Gaza offensive intensifies

By Agencies in Gaza and Jerusalem | China Daily | Updated: 2014-07-11 07:05

Israel launches deadliest strike since Tuesday; UN chief urges restraint

At least 74 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in Israel's Gaza offensive, Palestinian officials said on Thursday, and militants kept up rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and other cities in warfare showing no signs of ending soon.

Eight Palestinian family members, including five children, were killed in an early morning airstrike that destroyed at least two homes in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Israel's military made no comment on what would be the deadliest strike since the offensive began on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was slated to brief the Security Council on the crisis on Thursday, condemned the rocket attacks and urged Israel to show restraint.

"Gaza is on a knife edge," he said. "The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get beyond anyone's control."

Israel said its offensive was intended to halt rocket fire at its cities from the Gaza Strip. More than 320 rockets have been fired during the campaign, reaching into the country's interior.

The rockets have caused no serious casualties, due in part to interceptions by Israel's Iron Dome aerial defense system.

But the barrages have paralyzed business in southern communities and sent hundreds of thousands of people scrambling for shelter in Tel Aviv, the commercial capital; in cities close to northern Haifa port; and in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Dimona, a southern desert town where Israel's main nuclear reactor is located, was shelled on Wednesday, but the military said those rockets were either intercepted or fell wide.

Hamas, the dominant Islamist group in Gaza, said it fired eight rockets at Israel early on Thursday, two of them at Tel Aviv, where witnesses saw them being shot down by Iron Dome.

Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman, said Iron Dome also intercepted rockets launched at the cities of Beersheba and Ashkelon overnight.

"We are putting the pressure up every day," he said. "Is it leading to a ground force incursion? I still can't confirm that will actually happen. I can confirm that we are making all necessary preparations in order to be ready for that."

Gaza offensive intensifies

The Iron Dome interceptor has shot down about 90 percent of the Palestinian rockets it engaged during this week's surge of Gaza fighting, up from the 85 percent rate in the previous mini-war of 2012, Israeli and US officials said on Thursday.

Seven batteries of the system, made by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and partly funded by Washington, have been rotated around Israel to tackle unprecedented long-range salvos by Hamas guerrillas.

The Israeli military had called up 20,000 reserve troops to back up regular forces mobilized for Gaza, Lerner added.

Palestinians said Israel bombed more than 120 homes since Tuesday. Several Gaza government buildings were hit on Thursday.

While backing Israel's right to self-defense, Washington on Wednesday called on both sides to de-escalate.

Israel said it had bombed 750 militant targets in Gaza, including rocket launchers and homes of senior Hamas and Islamic Jihad members. It described those dwellings as command centers.

Reuters - AFP

 Gaza offensive intensifies

Chaos erupted after police said a house in Gaza City was hit in an Israeli airstrike on Wednesday. At least 74 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in Israel's Gaza offensive since Tuesday, Palestinian officials said on Thursday. Majdi Fathi / Reuters

(China Daily 07/11/2014 page12)

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