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Middle East

Netanyahu: All options open for Gaza offensive

Palestinians inspect the rubble of a building after it was hit by an Israeli missile strike in Gaza City July 11, 2014. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel has attacked more than 1,000 targets during a four-day-long offensive against Gaza militants and that "there are still more to go."

In remarks to reporters, he said he saw no international pressure on Israel to halt its campaign.

He also would not rule out the possibility of expanding the campaign of mostly aerial attacks into a ground war in Gaza, answering when asked whether such a move was possible that "we are weighing all possibilities and preparing for all possibilities."

Meanwhile, Israel's aerial bombardment of Gaza claimed its 100th Palestinian life Friday as Hamas pounded central Israel with rockets and Washington offered to help broker a truce.

Diplomatic efforts to end the hostilities between Israel and Hamas militants gathered pace, with U.S. President Barack Obama phoning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"The United States remains prepared to facilitate a cessation of hostilities," the White House said.

Raising fears of an expanded conflict, at least one rocket fired from Lebanon struck an open area in northern Israel.

But despite mounting international concerns, truce efforts were falling on deaf ears, according to Egypt, which has played a key role in mediating previous Hamas- Israel ceasefires.

"Egypt has communicated with all sides to halt violence against civilians and called on them to continue with the truce agreement signed in November 2012," the foreign ministry said. "Unfortunately, these efforts... have been met with stubbornness."

Neither of the warring sides appeared to have any interest in backing down.

After weeks of rising rocket fire on its south, Israel appeared bent on dealing a fatal blow to the Islamist movement Hamas, with Netanyahu saying in a previous statement that talk of a ceasefire was "not even on the agenda."

And Ismail Haniya, Gaza's former prime minister and the most senior Hamas official in the coastal enclave, also ruled out any end to hostilities.

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

On the other side, Israel's military chief-of-staff, Benny Gantz, warned Gaza's militants the army was intending to "broaden its activity as necessary, with all necessary force."

"Terrorists in Gaza made a grave mistake by attacking the people of Israel. They are bringing disaster upon themselves," he wrote on his Twitter feed Friday.

Israel has previously confirmed that preparations are under way for a possible ground attack, with tanks and artillery massed along the border and some 33,000 reserves mobilized out of the 40,000 approved by the cabinet.

Meanwhile, Hamas's armed wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, kept up a steady stream of rockets on central Israel, with sirens sending people fleeing for shelter in occupied Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and even in the northern port city of Haifa.

On Friday morning, three Gaza rockets were shot down over Tel Aviv by the Iron Dome anti-missile system, the army said, as the Brigades claimed their militants had fired M75 missiles at Israel's main international airport.

Israel's Airport Authority said Ben Gurion airport had been closed for "nine minutes" but then normal operations were resumed.

Hamas warned "all foreign airlines" to halt flights due to "the dangers surrounding all the airports due to the ongoing war."

In Gaza, another eight Palestinians, including a woman and seven-year-old child, were killed in three separate Israeli air strikes Friday, hiking the overall death toll to 100, medics said.

More than 700 people in Gaza have been injured, according to Gaza Health Ministry.

So far, no one in Israel has been killed, and less than a dozen people hurt, including a soldier who was severely wounded in a mortar attack Thursday, medics and officials said.

In northern Israel, at least one rocket fired from Lebanon struck an open area near Metula, prompting troops to hit back with artillery fire, the army said.

Military officials said they believed a Palestinian group had fired in solidarity with Hamas, public radio reported, as fears grew the violence in Gaza could spread to other fronts.

 

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Summary

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday that Israel has attacked more than 1,000 targets during a four-day-long offensive against Gaza militants and that "there are still more to go".

Israel's aerial bombardment of Gaza claimed its 100th Palestinian life Friday as Hamas pounded central Israel with rockets and Washington offered to help broker a truce.

Diplomatic efforts to end the hostilities between Israel and Hamas militants gathered pace, with U.S. President Barack Obama phoning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Israel has previously confirmed that preparations are under way for a possible ground attack, with tanks and artillery massed along the border and some 33,000 reserves mobilized out of the 40,000 approved by the cabinet.

No one in Israel has been killed, and less than a dozen people hurt, including a soldier who was severely wounded in a mortar attack Thursday, medics and officials said.


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