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Israel pounds Gaza

July 10, 2014

In a single night, Israel's military says its has carried out raids against 300 Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Palestinian authorities say four women and four children were killed in one of the airstrikes.

Elderly man walks past destroyed home in Gaza 10.7.
Image: Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has warned that the military operation against the Gaza Strip would expand if rocket fire continued to hit Israel from the small, densely populated enclave administered by the Islamist group Hamas.

"Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israel civilians," Netanyahu said. "The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns."

The prime minister has not ruled out a ground invasion of Gaza, with the Israeli government authorizing the mobilization of 40,000 reservists. "Operation Protective Edge" is the largest offensive against the enclave since an eight-day war between Hamas and Israel in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Israeli military said that it hit more than 300 targets in Gaza overnight from Wednesday into Thursday.

"We aimed at 322 targets in Gaza overnight, taking to 750 the total number of Hamas targets hit by the army since the start of Operation Protective Edge," said Israeli army spokesman Peter Lerner on Thursday.

Reports of civilian deaths

According to the Palestinian Health Ministry, the Israeli military destroyed two homes in Khan Younis in southern Gaza, killing a family of eight. The dead included four women and four children.

An early morning airstrike also hit a coffee shop in Khan Younis, killing another eight people and wounding at least 15, according to Palestinian emergency services spokesman Ashraf Al-Qudra.

Since the start of Israel's aerial offensive early on Tuesday, at least 70 Palestinians have been killed. The Palestinian Health Ministry said that at least 20 civilians had died in the Israeli strikes.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of intentionally targeting civilians. Abbas administers the West Bank and is currently in a unity government with Hamas.

"This war is not against Hamas or any faction, but is against the Palestinian people," the president said during an emergency meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday.

"It's genocide - the killing of entire families is genocide by Israel against our Palestinian people," he continued.

Palestinian militants have launched 200 rockets at Israel, including major cities such as Tel Aviv. Israel has suffered no serious casualties so far.

UN emergency situation

The United Nations Security Council is set to discuss the violence at a special session on Thursday. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned the situation could spiral out of control.

"This is one of the most critical tests the region has faced in recent years," Ban told a news conference. "Gaza is on a knife-edge. The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get beyond anyone's control."

The recent violence erupted after the murders of Palestinian and Jewish teenagers. Three Israeli teens were kidnapped and murdered in June. The Israeli government blames Hamas, which has neither confirmed nor denied involvement.

Last week, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy was burned alive, in an alleged revenge killing for the deaths of the Israeli teens. Israeli authorities have arrested six alleged Jewish extremists in connection with the murder.

slk/ipj (AP, AFP, Reuters)