Is­rael widens air at­tack, Gaza death toll tops 125

The Covington News - - WORLD -

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Is­rael widened its air as­sault against the Gaza Strip’s Ha­mas rulers on Satur­day, hit­ting a mosque it said was hid­ing rock­ets, as Pales­tini­ans said their death toll from the five-day of­fen­sive rose to over 125.

The mil­i­tary said it has struck more than 1,100 tar­gets, in­clud­ing Ha­mas rocket launch­ers, com­mand cen­ters and weapon man­u­fac­tur­ing and stor­age fa­cil­i­ties, in a bid to stop re­lent­less rocket fire com­ing Gaza. Of­fi­cials in the ter­ri­tory said that be­sides the mosque, the strikes also hit Ha­mas-af­fil­i­ated char­i­ties and banks, as well as a home for the dis­abled, killing two women.

The cen­tral Gaza mosque was be­ing used to con­ceal rock­ets like those mil­i­tants have fired nearly 700 times to­ward Is­rael over the past five days, the mil­i­tary said. How­ever, the strikes in the densely pop­u­lated Gaza Strip show the chal­lenge Is­rael faces as it con­sid­ers a ground oper­a­tion that could po­ten­tially pose fur­ther dan­gers to civil­ians.

While there have been no fa­tal­i­ties in Is­rael from the con­tin­ued rocket fire, Gaza Health Min­istry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said overnight Is­raeli strikes raised the death toll there to over 125, with more than 920 wounded.

Ha­mas mil­i­tants have been hit hard. Though the ex­act break­down of ca­su­al­ties re­mains un­clear, dozens of the dead also have been civil­ians.

The of­fen­sive showed no signs of slow­ing down Satur­day as Is­raeli De­fense Min­is­ter Moshe Yaalon said his coun­try should ready it­self for sev­eral more days of fight­ing.

“We have ac­cu­mu­lated achieve­ments as far as the price Ha­mas is pay­ing and we are con­tin­u­ing to de­stroy sig­nif­i­cant tar­gets of it and other ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tions,” Yaalon said af­ter a meet­ing with top se­cu­rity of­fi­cials. “We will con­tinue to pun­ish it un­til quiet and se­cu­rity re­turns to south­ern Is­rael and the rest of the coun­try.”

Ha­mas said it hoped the mosque at­tack would gal­va­nize sup­port for it in the Mus­lim world.

“(It) shows how bar­baric this en­emy is and how much it is hos­tile to Is­lam,” said Husam Bad­ran, a Ha­mas spokesman in Doha, Qatar. “This ter­ror­ism gives us the right to broaden our re­sponse to de­ter this oc­cu­pier.”

The Is­raeli mil­i­tary re­leased an aerial photo of the mosque it hit, say­ing Ha­mas hid rock­ets in it right next to an­other re­li­gious site and civil­ian homes. It said Ha­mas, Is­lamic Ji­had and other Gaza mil­i­tant groups use this tac­tic of abus­ing re­li­gious sites to con­ceal weapons and es­tab­lish un­der­ground tun­nel net­works, de­lib­er­ately en­dan­ger­ing civil­ians.

“Ha­mas ter­ror­ists sys­tem­at­i­cally ex­ploit and choose to put Pales­tini­ans in Gaza in harm’s way and con­tinue to lo­cate their po­si­tions among civil­ian ar­eas and mosques, prov­ing once more their dis­re­gard for hu­man life and holy sites,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Is­raeli mil­i­tary spokesman.

AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

A Pales­tinian searches the ru­ins of the Al-Tawfeeq mosque af­ter it was hit by an Is­raeli mis­sile strike in the Nu­seirat refugee camp, cen­tral Gaza Strip, Satur­day, July 12, 2014. Pales­tinian of­fi­cials said Is­raeli airstrikes in Gaza hit a mosque and a cen­ter for the dis­abled where two women were killed Satur­day, rais­ing the Pales­tinian death toll to more than 120, in an of­fen­sive that showed no signs of slow­ing down.

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