Three Palestinians have been killed in the latest Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip as renewed cross-border violence enters its third day. One of the victims was reportedly a 12-year-old child.
Israeli airstrikes killed three Palestinians in the Gaza Strip early on Sunday amid ongoing violence between the two sides, the worst in more than a year.
"We are at the height of this round (of violence)," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet on Sunday. "We have exacted a heavy price from them and we will continue to act as needed."
Palestinian medical sources said one of the victims was a twelve-year-old boy killed in the northern Gaza Strip. They said a militant was also killed in a separate strike in Gaza City.
A health official said the third victim, a 60-year-old farm guard, was killed while walking his dog in Gaza City.
An Israeli military spokesman confirmed the strikes and said reports of the boy's death were being checked.
"The IDF (Israel Defence Forces) has no intention of targeting anything but terrorist infrastructure, as we have seen in the past few days," the spokesman said.
Cabinet debates ground troops
During the cabinet meeting, high-level officials discussed whether or not it was necessary to send ground troops into the Gaza Strip, which is controlled by the Islamist Hamas organization. Israel launched an invasion of the Palestinian territory in 2009, which left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
"Sooner or later, we will probably have to put an end to the Hamas regime, the terror regime, in Gaza," Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman justified the attacks, but said a ground operation was "not desirable" unless the goal was to overthrow Hamas.
Environment Minister Gilad Erdan said an invasion of Gaza would be a distraction from the current tensions with Iran over its nuclear program.
"The Israeli interest if for the world to focus on sanctions on Iran, not on an Israeli military campaign," Erdan said.
Rockets in revenge
An Israeli military statement said one strike targeted a terrorist squad preparing to fire rockets at Israel from the northern Gaza Strip, while the other targeted two rocket launching sites.
Palestinian officials say at least 18 Palestinians have now been killed since Friday in Israeli attacks. Gaza militants have fired more than 110 rockets at Israel in response, seriously wounding one civilian.
The clashes erupted on Friday, when an Israeli air attack killed the commander of a militant group accused of plotting an infiltration attack into Israel.
The escalating violence has drawn appeals for a ceasefire from the United Nations, the European Union, the Palestinian Authority based in the West Bank and neighboring Egypt.
tj/slk (Reuters, AP)