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Wed Apr 16 20:58:05 SAST 2014

Shelling of Gaza still rages on

Reuters | 19 November, 2012 00:04
A Palestinian man at the scene of an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza City yesterday. Ten Palestinian civilians were killed yesterday in Palestinian medics said Picture: SUHAIB SALEM/REUTERS

Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip from air and sea for a fifth straight day yesterday, preparing for a possible ground invasion while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.

Palestinians launched dozens of rockets into Israel and targeted its commercial capital, Tel Aviv, for a fourth day.

The "Iron Dome" missile shield shot down two of the rockets fired towards Israel's biggest city but falling debris from the interception hit a car, which caught fire. Its driver was not hurt.

In scenes recalling Israel's 2008-2009 winter invasion of the Gaza Strip, tanks, artillery and infantry massed in field encampments along the sandy border. Military convoys moved on roads in the area newly closed to civilian traffic.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive.

"We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," Netanyahu said at a cabinet meeting, giving no further details.

Palestinian officials said 56 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 16 children, have been killed in small, densely populated Gaza since the Israeli offensive began, with hundreds wounded. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians and wounding dozens.

Ten Palestinian civilians were killed yesterday in an Israeli air strike on a house in Gaza, Palestinian medics said, the highest civilian death toll in a single incident during five days of fighting.

An Israeli military spokesman said he was checking the report.

Medics said three women, six children and one man were killed in the attack on the three-storey building. Rescue workers were still at the site searching for people who might be buried under the rubble.

Israel unleashed intensive air strikes on Wednesday, killing the military commander of the Islamist Hamas movement that governs Gaza and spurns peace with the Jewish state.

In air raids yesterday, two Gaza City media buildings were hit, witnesses said. Eight journalists were wounded and facilities belonging to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV as well as Britain's Sky News were damaged.

An employee of Beirut-based al Quds television station lost his leg in the attack, local medics said.

The Israeli military said the strike targeted a rooftop "transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity", and that journalists in the building had effectively been used as human shields by the group.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in Cairo, as his security deputies sought to broker a truce with Hamas leaders, that "there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees".

Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unravelled with recent violence.

A Palestinian official said the truce discussions would continue in Cairo yesterday, saying "there is hope", but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will be in Egypt today for talks with Mursi, the Foreign Ministry in Cairo said.

UN diplomats earlier said Ban was expected in Israel and Egypt this week to push for an end to the fighting.

Asked on Israel Radio about progress in the Cairo talks, Silvan Shalom, one of Netanyahu's deputies, said: "There are contacts, but they are currently far from being concluded."

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Wed Apr 16 20:58:05 SAST 2014 ::