Rock­ets hit Is­raeli heart­land

The Covington News - - WORLD -

JERUSALEM (AP) — Is­rael on Tues­day launched its largest of­fen­sive in the Gaza Strip in nearly two years, car­ry­ing out a blis­ter­ing aerial as­sault on scores of tar­gets and killing 25 people in what of­fi­cials called an open-ended oper­a­tion aimed at end­ing weeks of heavy rocket fire. As Gaza mil­i­tants un­leashed salvos on cities in­clud­ing Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Is­rael mo­bi­lized forces along the bor­der for a pos­si­ble ground in­va­sion.

The of­fen­sive set off the heav­i­est fight­ing be­tween Is­rael and the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group Ha­mas since an eight-day bat­tle in Novem­ber 2012. The mil­i­tants fired about 160 rock­ets at Is­rael, in­clud­ing a strike that reached the north­ern city of Hadera for the first time, while Is­rael said it at­tacked more than 150 sites across Gaza.

Pales­tinian medics re­ported at least 25 dead, in­clud­ing six killed in an airstrike that flat­tened an apart­ment build­ing in south­ern Gaza and set off wide­spread panic.

Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said con­tin­ued rocket at­tacks on Is­raeli com­mu­ni­ties would not be tol­er­ated.

“There­fore I have or­dered the mil­i­tary to sig­nif­i­cantly broaden its oper­a­tion against Ha­mas ter­ror­ists and against the other ter­ror­ist groups in­side Gaza,” he said on na­tional TV. “I call on you to dis­play pa­tience be­cause this oper­a­tion could take time.”

Is­rael and Ha­mas are bit­ter en­e­mies that have en­gaged in nu­mer­ous rounds of fight­ing over the years. But un­til re­cent- ly, they had been ob­serv­ing a truce that ended the pre­vi­ous hos­til­i­ties in 2012.

Ten­sions have been ris­ing since Pales­tinian mil­i­tants kid­napped three Is­raeli teenagers in the West Bank on June 12. Ac­cus­ing Ha­mas of be­ing be­hind the ab­duc­tions, Is­rael launched a crack­down on the group’s mem­bers in the West Bank and ar­rested hun­dreds of people. Ha­mas, which con­trols Gaza, re­sponded by step­ping up rocket fire.

The sit­u­a­tion de­te­ri­o­rated last week af­ter the bod­ies of the Is­raeli youths were found, and a Pales­tinian teenager in Jerusalem was ab­ducted and burned to death in what Pales­tini­ans be­lieve was a re­venge at­tack. Six Jewish Is­raelis have been ar­rested in the killing, and the rocket fire from Gaza has in­creased in re­cent days.

The fight­ing raged through­out the day. In its fiercest at­tack, an airstrike flat­tened the home of a Ha­mas mil­i­tant in the south­ern Gaza town of Khan You­nis, re­duc­ing the con­crete struc­ture into a smol­der­ing pile of rub­ble.

Pan­icked res­i­dents fled, shout­ing “God is great.” Some had bloody faces, and cry­ing moth­ers held small chil­dren as they ran away. Scream­ing Pales­tini­ans took away mo­tion­less bod­ies. Pales­tinian med­i­cal of­fi­cials said six people, in­clud­ing two chil­dren, were killed. Is­rael’s mil­i­tary said it had called the home shortly be­fore the airstrike to warn civil­ians to leave, some­thing it has done in past fight­ing as well.

AP Photo/ariel Schalit

Smoke rises fol­low­ing an Is­raeli strike on Gaza, as seen from the Is­rael-Gaza Bor­der, Tues­day, July 8, 2014. The Is­raeli mil­i­tary launched a ma­jor of­fen­sive in the Ha­mas-ruled Gaza Strip on Tues­day, strik­ing more than 100 sites and mo­bi­liz­ing troops for a pos­si­ble ground in­va­sion in what Is­rael says is an oper­a­tion aimed at stop­ping a heavy bar­rage of rocket at­tacks from the Pales­tinian ter­ri­tory.

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