Israeli fighter jets continued their days-old offensive on the Palestinian territory on Saturday, with the death toll climbing to at least 120.
Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for emergency services in the Gaza Strip, said five Palestinians had been killed in an Israeli airstrike early on Saturday in Jabalia in northern Gaza. Two others were killed in a strike in the town of Deir el-ballah, he added.
Since Israel began the aerial offensive early on Tuesday, Islamist militants have fired more than 540 mortar rounds and rockets at Israel, according to military officials. So far there have been no deaths on the Israeli side, in part due to the Iron Dome missile defense system, which is able to intercept many rockets fired at the Jewish state. Several Israeli's have been hurt though, including a man who was seriously injured when a rocket hit a gas station in the southern port of Ashdod early on Friday, and an Israeli soldier, severely wounded in a mortar attack on Thursday.
Vow to press on
Late on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used a press conference in Tel Aviv to pledge to press on indefinitely with the air strikes targeting members of the militant group Hamas.
"I will end it when our goals are realized," Netanyhu said. "And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet"
"No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power," he told reporters in Tel Aviv on Friday.
So far, the pressure from abroad has been largely muted, But on Friday, the United Nations top human rights official said the air campaign, which, according to Palestinian officials has killed dozens of civilians, may violate international law.
"We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes," Navi Pillay, the UN's high commissioner for human rights said.
Netanyahu blamed the civilian casualties on Hamas, whose members, he said, were hiding in residential areas.
As Israel continued to mass thousands of soldiers along its border with the Gaza Strip, speculation grew that it may be about to launch a ground invasion. When asked about the odds that Israel would send in ground troops, Netanyahu was evasive.
"We are weighing every possibility, he said.
pfd/av (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)