News Column

Israel Says Gaza Airstrikes to Continue

Nov. 18, 2012

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu says Israel will continue airstrikes on Gaza targets.

Netanyahu said the air force has conducted over 1,000 strikes on Gaza targets since the military operation began five days ago. "Israel Defense Forces is prepared to expand the operation... ," he was quoted as saying.

Israel's Foreign Minister Avigdor Lierbman said Israel is willing to consider a ceasefire but only after a total halt to rocket fire on Israel, Israel Radio said.

Towards noon the Iron Dome missile defense battery intercepted at least one missile fired towards Tel Aviv as rockets continued to slam southern Israel.

Sirens sounded in Rishon Letzion, Holon and Bat Yam in the Gush Dan area surrounding Tel Aviv, warning of an incoming rocket. No one was injured but shrapnel damaged a vehicle, the army said. Israel Police said two missiles were intercepted by the defense system.

Hamas later claimed responsibility, Israel Radio said. Hamas said it was in response to an Israeli attack on a media building that houses a number of networks in Gaza earlier in the morning. The Israeli army said the strike was targeting a Hamas transmitter on the roof of the building.

Missiles have been fired towards Tel Aviv a number of times since Friday, all were intercepted by the missile defense battery. On Friday night, two rockets were fired towards Jerusalem.

As Israel's "Operation Pillar of Defense" entered its fifth day, Palestinians said more than 62 had been killed and over 400 injured in more than 1,000 Israeli air strikes in Gaza. Three Israelis have been killed and dozens injured from rockets fired at southern Israel.

An Israeli rescue worker suffered a serious head injury when a mortar shell fired from Gaza exploded in the Sha'ar Hanegev regional council area. Other rockets were fired at Ashkelon, Ashdod, Beersheba, Beer Tuviya and other areas in the South causing injuries and extensive damage to property.

Schools and learning institutions within a 25 mile radius of the Gaza Strip remained closed.

The head of Hamas missile production in Gaza was killed in an Israeli airstrike in the afternoon and ten members of a family when their home was bombed in a separate airstrike causing it to collapse.

Over the weekend, the Israeli security cabinet approved the call-up of some 75,000 reservists ahead of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Tens of thousands of reservists are already deployed near the Gaza border in preparation for a possible offensive.

Palestinians have fired over 800 rockets since Wednesday, with the majority falling in open areas and some 300 intercepted by five Israeli Iron Dome missile defense systems, the army said.

Ahram Online said Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh and Ramadan Shalah, head of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza, spoke by telephone Sunday. The Egyptian website said Haniyeh demanded guarantees and assurances that Israel would cease airstrikes on the Gaza Strip.

Al-Jazeeera reported Morsi also met Sunday in Cairo with Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal.

Egypt's Intelligence Minister Rafat Shehata is leading efforts to bring about a ceasefire and according to the Hamas run Palestinian Information Center site, met with Meshaal in Cairo Saturday.

Morsi also met with Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as well as Qatari leader Sheik Hamed bin Khalifa al-Thani to discuss the Gaza crisis, the Egyptian website said. There are discussions that a committee will be formed to monitor events in Gaza.

Iran said it plans to send a delegation of parliamentarians to Gaza in the coming days and is currently trying to facilitate their entry with Egyptian officials,

A number of international leaders are due to visit the region in the coming days with the aim of restoring calm to the region and ending hostilities between Israel and Hamas.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said French Foreign Minister Lauren Fabius will arrive in Jerusalem Sunday for meetings before traveling to Ramallah. Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle is also due in Israel, the radio said.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive Tuesday, Israel's Channel 2 said.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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