Israeli soldiers watch as an Iron Dome
launcher fires an interceptor rocket.
Israel ready to widen Gaza offensive: Netanyahu
Jerusalem, November 18, 2012
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday Israel was prepared to widen its Gaza offensive significantly. He gave no specifics and made no mention of the possibility of a ground offensive.
His comments came as Israel bombed Palestinian militant targets in the Gaza Strip from air and sea for a fifth straight day.
Palestinian fire into Israel subsided during the night but resumed in the morning, with two rockets targeting Tel Aviv. Both were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome air shield.
"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 told his cabinet, in broadcast remarks.
"As of now we have struck more than 1,000 targets, so Hamas should do the math over whether it is worth or not to cease fire," said Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon.
"If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel's citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack," he wrote on Twitter.
Fifty Palestinians, about half of them civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the Israeli offensive began, Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians.
Israel unleashed intensive air strikes on Wednesday, killing the military commander of the Hamas Islamist group that governs Gaza and spurns peace with the Jewish state.
Israel's declared goal is to deplete Gaza arsenals and press Hamas into stopping cross-border rocket fire that has plagued Israeli border towns for years and which has now targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Air raids continued past midnight into Sunday, with warships shelling from the sea. Two Gaza City media buildings were hit, witnesses said, wounding six journalists and damaging facilities belonging to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV as well as Britain's Sky News.
An employee of Beirut-based al Quds television station lost his leg in the attack, medics said.
An Israeli military spokeswoman said the strike had targeted a rooftop "transmission antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity". International media organisations demanded further clarification.
Three other attacks killed three children and wounded 14 other people, medical officials said.
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 told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying "there is hope", but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
At a Gaza news conference, Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida voiced defiance, saying: "This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning."
Israel's military also saw action along the northern frontier, firing into Syria on Saturday in what it said was a response to shooting aimed at its troops in the occupied Golan Heights. Israel's chief military spokesman, citing Arab media, said it appeared Syrian soldiers were killed in the incident.
There were no reported casualties on the Israeli side from the shootings, the third case this month of violence seen as a spillover of battles between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's forces and rebels. - Reuters