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Gaza bombardment continues, Israeli tanks at border

July 12, 2014 17:56 IST

Gaza bombardment continues, Israeli tanks at border

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Israel defiantly pressed on with its bombardment of Gaza for the fifth day on Saturday as the Jewish state vowed to keep up its military offensive to counter rocket attacks by Palestinian militants with the death toll reaching 121.

On Saturday, 16 Palestinians died in a wave of Israeli air strikes as Operation Protective Edge entered its fifth day, taking the overall death toll to 121, medics said.

Israel says it hit more than "60 terror targets" in new raids and two rockets hit Beersheba in Israel.

The Israeli military says it is targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives. It says "dozens of terrorists" are among those killed.

There is no sign of both sides agreeing on a ceasefire, despite intense diplomacy at the United Nations.

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Image: An Israeli mobile artillery unit fires towards Gaza from outside the central Gaza Strip July 12
Photographs: Baz Ratner/Reuters

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Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday that his country will resist foreign pressure to halt its operations.

"The objective is to restore quiet to the cities of Israel, and I intend to achieve this objective," he said, according to the BBC.

In a strike on Beit Lahiya overnight, Israel hit a building used by a charitable association for people with disabilities, Palestinian official said.

Two teenage female residents were killed, medics said.

Three other people, including an Islamic Jihad activist, were killed when a house in Jabaliya refugee camp was hit, the Palestinian health ministry said.

A mosque in the central Gaza Strip was also bombed overnight. A Hamas spokesman reportedly said a pair of mosques was struck in the first attack of its kind since Israel began its offensive.

The Israeli military said the building had been used to store weapons.

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Image: A Palestinian surveys a house which police said was damaged in an Israeli air strike on a neighboruing house in the northern Gaza Strip July 12
Photographs: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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Hamas, meanwhile, said it fired four rockets at the Israeli city of Ashdod.

The Palestinian health ministry says in addition to those killed, 750 people -- mainly civilians -- have been injured in Israel's Operation Protective Edge since it began on Tuesday.

The UN has calculated that 77 per cent of the people killed in Gaza so far have been civilians.

Israel said on Saturday that it has carried out 1,160 strikes since the start of its offensive, and says Hamas fired 689 rockets in the first four days.

The rockets have caused damage and some injuries in Israel but there have been no Israeli fatalities so far.

Meanwhile, an Israeli official said that by declaring it is targeting Israel's Ben Gurion international airport, Hamas had decided to escalate its attacks on Israelis and foreign nationals and to demonstrate its similarity to other extreme terrorist organisations such as ISIS, Al Qaeda and others.

"Hamas leadership had repeatedly stated it is not interested in any compromise or peace negotiations with Israel and strives to its annihilation," the official said.

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Image: A Palestinian woman reacts after what police said was an Israeli air strike that destroyed a neighbouring house in the northern Gaza Strip July 12
Photographs: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

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Gaza bombardment continues, Israeli tanks at border

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Ismail Haniya, Gaza's former premier and the most senior Hamas official in the coastal enclave, ruled out any halt to hostilities.

"Israel is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are only defending ourselves," he said.

A concerned US President Barack Obama has offered to broker a ceasefire with Hamas as he called Netanyahu.

Reaffirming the US' position that Israel has a right to defend itself and while condemning rocket attacks by Hamas and other Gaza-based militant groups, Obama told Netanyahu that he is prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities.

Netanyahu has already ruled out a ceasefire with Hamas in the short-term, instead vowing a series of "additional stages" to his government's military response to continued rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities by Gaza militants.

A ceasefire is "not even on the agenda," Netanyahu said just hours before his call with Obama. 

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Image: Israeli soldiers from the Nahal Infantry Brigade walk across a field near central Gaza Strip July 12
Photographs: Finbarr O'Reilly/Reuters

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Israel has said it is preparing for a possible ground assault on Gaza, with tanks and artillery positioned along the border and about 33,000 reservists mobilised.

Large numbers of armoured vehicles were transported south on Saturday morning and troops were seen reaching the border.

Military spokesman General Moti Almoz said he expected the air campaign to continue at least throughout the coming day, as there were still "many targets to attack".

"In parallel, we are preparing the next parts of the operation, readying the forces to enter on the ground," he said. 


Image: A convoy of Israeli lorries carrying army tanks can be seen on a road leading to southern Israel, at Latrun, near Jerusalem July 12
Photographs: Ammar Awad/Reuters

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