Deaths soar in conflict, as Israel intensifes air strikes in Gaza

Monday, November 19, 2012
By Paul Martin
November 19, 2012

ISRAEL – Israeli planes kept up air strikes, they say are aimed at stopping rocket attacks into Israel. Fewer rockets have been launched, but Israeli towns are still being hit. Ninety-five Palestinians and three Israelis have died in six days of violence, the latest including a militant group commander. Efforts to secure a ceasefire continue, with a senior Egyptian official saying there are “encouraging signs.” Khaled Meshaal, the political leader of the Islamist movement Hamas which controls Gaza, said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had requested a ceasefire but that it was up to Israel to stop the war that, he said, it had started. Israel immediately denied making any such request, Reuters news agency reported. Mr. Meshaal said that a truce was possible in Gaza, as was further escalation of the conflict. Morale in Gaza was high and anyone who attacked the Palestinians would be “buried,” he added. Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi has said an Israeli ground invasion would have “serious repercussions,” saying Egypt would never accept it “and neither will the free world.” Mr. Netanyahu said on Sunday that he was ready to expand the operation, after Israel authorized the mobilization of up to 75,000 army reservists. Gaza militants launched 32 missiles into Israel on Monday, of which four were intercepted, said the IDF. One hit a school in the Israeli city of Ashkelon. Classes had already been cancelled. Another hit a house. There are no reports of casualties. At least nine children were killed in Gaza on Sunday – the bloodiest day so far – and TV reports showing horrific images of their burned and bloodied bodies have been fuelling Palestinian anger, says the BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza City. In one strike, nine members of the family of Hamas policeman Mohamed Dalou were killed – four of them children. The army’s chief military spokesman, Yoav Mordechai, told Israel’s Channel 2 TV that the intended target of the strike had been Yehiya Rabiyah, the head of Hamas’s rocket-launching unit, but that there had been “civilian casualties.” Later, the IDF told the BBC that the house had been targeted because it was thought Mr. Rabiyah might be hiding there but officials did not know whether he was inside at the time of the attack. –BBC

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