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Israel targets Hamas facilities in new round of air strikes

Israel has expanded its assault on the Gaza Strip with a new round of air strikes overnight, targeting Hamas government buildings. The violence comes as thousands of Israeli troops are gathering along the border.

Israeli soldiers prepare armoured personnel carriers (APC) at an area near the border with the Gaza Strip November 16, 2012. Israel has started drafting 16,000 reserve troops, the military said on Friday, in a sign that violence could escalate further with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip. REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun (ISRAEL - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST MILITARY)

Palästinenser Israel israelische Panzer Richtung Gaza

Fresh air strikes hit the Gaza Strip early Saturday, with air strikes hitting a number of Hamas government buildings, including the prime minister's offices.

On Friday, the Israeli cabinet increased the upper limit of a reserve troop call-up from 30,000 to 75,000. The Israeli military had already called 16,000 reservists to active duty.

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Gaza faces intensified Israeli raids

In addition to troop movements, tanks and artillery were being moved near the border between Israel and the Palestinian enclave of Gaza. Roads leading into the Gaza Strip were also closed to civilian traffic on Friday.

Trading fire

For the first time the history of the conflict between the two sides, a rocket claimed by Hamas was launched on the Israeli capital, Jerusalem. Police said the rocket landed outside the city and caused no damage or casualties.

Air raid alarms sounded for the second day in a row in Tel Aviv, but there have been no reports of damage or casualties.

In response to the Israeli troop movements, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said, "the Israelis should be aware of the grave results of such a raid and they should bring their body bags."

Official counts from within Gaza place the death toll at 28, including four on Friday, from Israeli attacks that started Wednesday with the targeted killing of the Hamas military leader. Three Israelis have been killed as a result of rocket fire from Gaza.

Egypt's role

Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Kandil visited Gaza on Friday. He said Egypt would spare no effort to "stop the aggression and to achieve a truce." His party, the Muslim Brotherhood, is aligned with Hamas.

A truce that was meant to span the length of Kandil's visit was apparently not held, with Israel asserting that rockets continued to be launched from Gaza, and the Palestinians accusing Israel of continued airstrikes.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel added her voice on Friday to those of other Western leaders who have called on Egypt to influence Hamas to stop the violence. Speaking through her deputy spokesman, Merkel - in Moscow for talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin - also supported Israel's right to defend itself.

US President Barack Obama reiterated his support for Israel during a call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obama also spoke with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, according to the White House. The American president commended Egypt's efforts to de-escalate the situation, expressing his hope that they would succeed.

mz,dr/ccp (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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