Tel Aviv hit as war looms
Two rockets fired from the Gaza Strip targeted Tel Aviv yesterday in the first attack on Israel's commercial capital in 20 years, raising the stakes in a showdown between Israel and the Palestinians that is moving towards all-out war.
Earlier, a Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 16, five of them children.
Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza city for a second day, shaking tall buildings. In a sign of possible escalation, the armed forces spokesman said the military had received the green light to call in up to 30000 reserve troops.
Plumes of smoke and dust furled into a sky laced with the vapour trails of outgoing rockets over the crowded city, where four young children killed on Wednesday were buried.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said Palestinian militants would pay a price for firing the missiles. At about the same time, Israeli aircraft conducted a wave of night raids on targets throughout the enclave, unleashing more than 25 strikes in swift succession.
An electricity generator supplying the home of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh by the Gaza shore was hit by an Israeli missile.
The conflict, launched by Israel with the killing of Hamas's military chief, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, pours oil on the fire of a Middle East already ablaze with two years of revolution and an out-of-control civil war in Syria. Egypt's new Islamist President, Mohamed Mursi, viewed by Hamas as a protector, led a chorus of denunciation of the Israeli strikes by Palestinian allies.
Israel says its attack is in response to escalating missile strikes from Gaza. Israel's bombing has not yet reached the saturation level seen before it last invaded Gaza in 2008, but Israeli officials have said a ground assault is still an option.
Israeli police said three Israelis died when a rocket hit a four-story building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, 25km north of Gaza, the first Israeli fatalities of the latest conflict to hit the coastal region.
Air raid sirens sent residents running for shelter in Tel Aviv, a Mediterranean city that has not been hit by a rocket since the 1991 Gulf War. Israeli sources said one rocket landed in the sea, while another landed in an uninhabited area of the Tel Aviv suburbs.
"This escalation will exact a price that the other side will have to pay," Barak said in a television broadcast shortly after the strike.