GAZA/JERUSALEM: Israel said yesterday it would not bow to international pressure to end air strikes in Gaza that officials there said had killed over 100 Palestinians, despite an offer by US President Barack Obama to help negotiate a ceasefire with militants.
Asked if Israel might move from the mostly aerial attacks of the past four days into a ground war in Gaza to stop militant rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu replied, “we are weighing all possibilities and preparing for all possibilities.”
“No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power,” he told reporters in Tel Aviv a day after a telephone conversation with Obama about the worst flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence in almost two years.
Hamas’ armed wing has warned airlines that it intends to target Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport with its rockets from Gaza and has told them not to fly there, a statement by the group said. The airport, Israel’s main international aerial gateway, has been fully operational since Israel began an aerial offensive on Tuesday in the Gaza Strip and Palestinian militants intensified their cross-border rocket fire.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged the United Nations Security Council to order an immediate truce. But Israel said it was determined to end cross-border rocket attacks that intensified last month after its forces arrested hundreds of activists from the Islamist Hamas movement in the occupied West Bank following the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found killed. A Palestinian youth was killed in Jerusalem in a suspected Israeli revenge attack. Yesterday, Washington affirmed Israel’s right to defend itself in a statement from the Pentagon. But Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel told Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon he was concerned “about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect civilian lives and restore calm.”
A rocket caused the first serious Israeli casualty — one of eight people hurt when a fuel tanker was hit at a service station in Ashdod, 30km north of Gaza, and Palestinian militants warned international airlines they would fire rockets at Tel Aviv’s main airport. Two Palestinians were killed in an Israeli strike late yesterday, raising the death toll in four days of violence to 105, Gaza health ministry spokesman Ashraf Al Qudra said.
Earlier, a three-year-old child was killed when a home in northern Gaza was hit, Qudra said, shortly after an elderly man was killed in Beit Lahiya.
The body of a man killed earlier in the week was also found in Deir Al Balah, Qudra said.
Yesterday morning, six Palestinians were killed in two strikes, including one on the home of an Islamic Jihad militant in the southern city of Rafah, medical sources said.
Witnesses said the militant, Abdel Razzaq Al Ghannam, was not at home when the attack took place, but five other people, including a woman and a seven-year-old child, were killed.
Another 15 people were wounded in the attack which came an hour after another raid on Gaza City’s Tel Al Hawa neighbourhood that killed 33-year-old Anas Abu Al Kass. Qudra said 154 people were wounded in strikes across the Gaza enclave yesterday.
The deaths raise to 105 the toll since Israel began Operation Protective Edge early Tuesday in an attempt to halt cross-border rocket fire by militant groups.
Since then, militants have fired at least 500 mortar rounds and rockets that struck Israel, while another 130 rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defence system, an army spokeswoman said yesterday.
It is the deadliest violence since November 2012, with a growing number of rockets fired at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and even as far north as Haifa. So far, no Israelis have been killed.
However, a soldier was severely wounded in a mortar attack late on Thursday, and another man was very seriously injured when a rocket hit a petrol station in the southern port city of Ashdod early yesterday. Two soldiers were lightly wounded along the border with Gaza when Palestinians fired an anti-tank missile. Israel has authorised the call-up of 40,000 reservist troops, and threatened a ground operation to stamp out the rocket fire.Agencies