Endures Hamas Rocket Blitz
Gaza militants, reeling from an Israeli military operation, killed three Israelis on Thursday in a rocket attack that is likely to exact a harsh retaliation by Israel. The casualties were the first since Israel launched its operation on Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said two Israeli men and a woman died after a rocket struck their four-story apartment building in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi. A 4-year-old boy was seriously wounded and two babies lightly wounded in the strike.
Since the Israeli operation started, a total of 13 Palestinians, including four civilians, have been killed and more than 100 people wounded, according to Palestinian medical officials. Among the dead were two children.
Israelis and Gazans both holed up in their homes Thursday in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of the military's campaign.
Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled coastal strip and rocket salvoes thudded into southern Israel. The operation, launched after days of rocket fire from the coastal territory, was Israel's most intense attack on Gaza since its full-scale war there four years ago. The Israeli military said the some 20 airstrikes were part of a major offensive dubbed "Operation Pillar of Defense," according to a Reuters report.
Israeli officials said Wednesday that a ground invasion was a strong possibility in the coming days if Hamas didn't rein in the rocket fire. Mid-morning Thursday, there was no sign such an invasion might be beginning. But the Israeli military was cleared to call up special reserve units -- a sign the operation might broaden...
Gaza schools were ordered closed until the operation ends, and most of the territory's 1.6 million people hunkered down close to home, venturing out only to buy food, fuel and other basic supplies. Hamas announced a state of emergency in Gaza, evacuating all its security buildings and deploying its troops away from their locations.
Israeli aircraft dropped leaflets on several locations in Gaza early Thursday, warning Gazans to stay away from Hamas, other militants and their facilities.
The Israeli military said Hamas fighters and other militant factions, undeterred by the air attacks, bombarded southern Israel with more than 130 rockets after the operation began. Israel's newly deployed Iron Dome missile defense system, developed as a response to the short-range rockets from Gaza, intercepted two dozen of them, military spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich said...
About 400 angry mourners braved the streets, however, to bury Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari, whose body was draped in the green flag of the Islamic militant Hamas movement. Some fired guns in the air and chanted, "God is Great, the revenge is coming."
When the body was brought into a mosque for funeral prayers, some tried to touch or kiss it. Others cried. Jabari was the most senior Hamas official to be killed since the last war in Gaza ended in early 2009. He has long topped Israel's most-wanted list, blamed for a string of deadly attacks, including the kidnapping of Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit in 2006...
The conflict has deepened the instability gripping the Middle East. Cairo recalled its ambassador in response to the military operation, which began just days after Israel was drawn into Syria's civil war for the first time...
Outside the hospital where Jabari's body was taken, Hamas official Khalil al-Haya eulogized the commander and threatened Israel.
"The battle between us and the occupation is open and it will end only with the liberation of Palestine and Jerusalem," he said. Thousands of angry Gazans chanted "Retaliation" and "We want you to hit Tel Aviv tonight."
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