Israel air raids kill 10, destroy Hamas HQ in Gaza


GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 10 Palestinians and destroyed the Hamas government headquarters on Saturday as Israel called up thousands more reservists for a possible ground war.

After Palestinian militants fired rockets at the heart of Israel on Friday, Israeli warplanes carried out 180 air strikes overnight, Israel television reported, with attacks levelling the headquarters of the Hamas government.

“It’s like a real-life horror movie, what I saw today… It’s a miracle we’re still alive,” said 18-year-old Suha, standing outside her house.

Medics said 40 Gazans have been killed and more than 390 wounded since Israel launched its aerial campaign on Wednesday afternoon, with at least five militants among 10 people killed on Saturday.

As the toll rose, sirens sounds in Tel Aviv for a third day, sending people scuttling for cover a day after a rocket hit the sea near the city centre, AFP correspondents said.

Officials said one rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system while a second hit somewhere in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

In Egypt, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel would be held to account for the children killed.

“Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza,” he said in a speech in Cairo.

So far, six children have died in the violence, the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights said.

Arab League foreign ministers attending an emergency session in Cairo were expected to demand that Israel immediately halt its campaign, an Arab diplomat told AFP.

Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal was also in Cairo and scheduled to meet Egypt’s intelligence chief, Erdogan and Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, a senior Hamas official said.

With Cairo playing a central role in efforts to halt the violence, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti appealed for a truce in a telephone conversation with his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu, Monti’s office said.

Since the start of Operation Pillar of Defence, the Israeli army says militants have fired more than 600 rockets over the border, of which 430 hit and 245 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.

Over the same period, three Israelis have been killed and 18 injured, including 10 soldiers, with the army saying the air force had hit more than 950 targets in Gaza.

Israel’s Channel 10 television on Saturday showed live footage of an Iron Dome battery near Tel Aviv firing twice at a Fajr 5 rocket and successfully intercepting it. The attack was claimed by Hamas’s armed wing.

Four Israeli soldiers and five civilians were hurt in separate rocket attacks on the south, police and the army said. Hamas claimed the attack on the soldiers, while Islamic Jihad said it was behind rockets which injured civilians in Ashdod.

Late on Friday, the military sealed off all main roads around Gaza in the latest sign it was poised to launch its first ground offensive on the territory since its 22-day campaign over New Year 2009.

After a night of strikes on targets including the headquarters of Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya and other government buildings, the Israeli military turned its attention to senior Hamas officials.

In a statement, it said the air force had targeted “a senior Hamas operative in charge of the terror organisation’s smuggling operations.. and the senior member of Hamas’s air defence unit, Mohammed Kaleb.”

Air strikes in southern Gaza killed six people while three more died in a raid on a refugee camp in central Gaza, medics said. Another man died of wounds sustained in a morning strike on Gaza City. Five of them were militants.

’s violence came as Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem paid a brief solidarity visit to Gaza, urging the world to stop Israel’s “blatant aggression,” as he toured Haniya’s ruined headquarters.

 and Turkey put the onus on Israel to end the fighting, a day after Washington urged them to pressure the Palestinians.

President Barack Obama reiterated US support for Israel’s right to defend itself during a telephone call with Netanyahu.

Israeli ministers approved the call-up of as many as 75,000 reservists on Friday after Hamas militants said they fired a rocket at Jerusalem, and another crashed into the sea off Tel Aviv, causing panic but no casualties.


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