Gaza crisis: Israeli air strikes hit Hamas HQ


Israel has targeted the headquarters of Hamas leaders and other key facilities in Gaza, on the fourth day of Israeli air strikes in the coastal enclave.

Prime Minister Ismail Haniya’s office, which Egypt’s PM had visited on Friday, was among the buildings destroyed.

At least 38 Palestinians and three Israelis have died since Israel killed Hamas’s military chief on Wednesday.

Israel earlier put 75,000 reservists on stand-by amid speculation of an impending ground invasion.

Militants in Gaza have continued to fire rockets into Israel, after aiming at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem on Friday.

Following a lull, Gaza City was hit by a string of large explosions shortly after 03:00 (01:00 GMT) on Saturday.

There was another series of strikes in and around the city after 05:00, with several targeting Hamas’s cabinet buildings, which correspondents say were likely to have been empty.

One of the targets was the house of a Hamas leader in Jabaliya, north of Gaza City.

The BBC’s Paul Danahar tweeted from the scene: “A mother in her wrecked home… is scurrying around collecting her daughters dolls, dusting them off.”

Our correspondent said Mr Haniya’s HQ was the most damaged of any building he had seen. Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil had visited it on Friday morning.

At least eight Palestinians are reported to have been killed in overnight strikes. The dead are said to include three members of the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing.

Israel issued a statement saying it was targeting rocket-launching squads and weapons storage facilities and smuggling tunnels on the border with Egypt in southern Gaza.

Israeli military spokeswoman Avital Leibovich said 200 targets had been hit overnight, including 120 rocket launchers.

There are rumours that a ground attack is imminent, but Israeli officials say no decision has been made.

Israel blocked access to three major routes leading into Gaza on Friday. Call-up papers have already been sent to 16,000 Israeli reservists, with officials authorising the mobilisation of another 75,000.

Militants and civilians, including at least seven children, have been among the Palestinians killed during Israeli strikes in recent days, Hamas says.

The group’s military leader Ahmed Jabari was killed on Wednesday. A senior commander was killed on Friday, officials said.

Two Israeli women and a man died when a rocket hit a building in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi on Thursday.

‘Iron Dome’

Before the recent offensive – codenamed Pillar of Defence – Israel had repeatedly carried out air strikes on Gaza, as Palestinian militants fired rockets across the border.

Hundreds more rockets have been fired into Israel from Gaza since Wednesday. Most of the targets were in the south, but a small number have been aimed at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

A quarter of the attacks have been intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system, officials say.

Dozens of rockets were fired from Gaza on Saturday morning. The army said three of its soldiers were injured in one strike in southern Israel.

The Israeli military said it had deployed a new Iron Dome battery in the Tel Aviv area on Saturday.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of carrying out “massacres”.

Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem arrived in Gaza through the Rafah border crossing from Egypt to show support for Hamas. Later on Saturday he visited the wreckage of Mr Haniya’s HQ.

Western leaders and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon have appealed for both sides to stop the violence.

In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, President Barack Obama reiterated US support for Israel’s “right to defend itself”.

Mr Obama also spoke to Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi. Mr Mursi has called the Israeli raids “a blatant aggression against humanity” and promised that Egypt “will not leave Gaza on its own”.

Ties between Hamas and Egypt have strengthened since Mr Mursi’s election earlier this year.

Hamas was formed as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mr Mursi belongs.

Source : BBC

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