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18 Nov, 2012 09:15

Israel PM says ready to expand Gaza operation after Hamas resumed fire

Israel is ready to “significantly expand” Gaza operation, stated Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Hamas militants fired at least nine rockets into Israel as the fifth day of Israel’s Pillar of Defense began.

“The Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation. The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place", Netanyahu declared at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. "The Israel Defense Forces have attacked more than 1,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip and it continues its operation in this very moment", he added.Sunday morning Israel has continued to attack Gaza for the fifth day of its Pillar of Defense operation.The country’s military carried out dozens of attacks on rocket-launching sites, a major training base and the two media centers. At least six journalists were injured during the latter incident, Palestinian medical authorities reported.Among the media outlets affected were Britain’s Sky News, RT’s Arabic-language sister channel Rusiya Al-Yaum, Lebanese al-Quds TV, Italian RAI, German ARD, Kuwait-TV and others. An IDF report of the strike described the target as “a communications antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity against the State of Israel.” Israel sees al-Quds TV as a Hamas propaganda branch.

RT’s Paula Slier reports from Tel Aviv that the Israeli army has taken control of Hamas radio and is using it to release warning messages to the people of Gaza. But Slier argued that the “IDF is falling far short of its statement that it is only targeting assassinations and very much trying not to hit civilians, because the civilian count continues to increase.” On top of that, there were two separate incidents where refugee camps were targeted, according to Slier. One of the strikes hit the Shati refugee camp in Gaza, targeting a Hamas militant in a car outside his house. The strike also killed an 11-year-old girl who was passing by at the time, AP reported.In addition, seven Palestinian civilians were killed in airstrikes, including five children between the ages one and 11, AP quoted Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra as saying. Two children, a three-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy, were from the same family.According to UN spokesperson Chris Gunneness, civilian casualties will only worsen unless the violence is reigned in. “Gaza is very densely-populated. It’s a largely civilian area. These sorts of things are accidents waiting to happen. It is inevitable, given the context of contemporary warfare…that women, children, and journalists should come into harm’s way. And that’s why we say, ‘please can we have some restraint, can we deescalate?’ because that is the only way to resolve this crisis,” Gunneness told RT.

Hamas resumes fire

On Saturday Netanyahu stated that he would agree to a ceasefire if Hamas agrees to stop rocket fire from Gaza. And overnight, Hamas sharply decreased the number of attacks on Israel. However, after Sunday morning’s violence from the Israeli side, Hamas has resumed the pace of their attacks.Out of the nine rockets launched by Hamas, three hit Israel and another four were successfully shot down by Israel's Iron Dome air shield, including the two rockets that targeted Tel Aviv. Two more were unaccounted for.One of the rockets hit the roof of a four-story building in the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, slightly injuring one person, according to Israeli medics. And one person was seriously wounded from rocket fire in Sha’ar Hanegev, southern Israel.It was also reported earlier that Hamas’ Qassam Brigades fired a “107 Rocket” at an Israeli warship.

On Friday evening, as was uncovered by The Daily Beast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu assured US President Barack Obama that Israel was not planning to escalate its attack on Gaza with a ground offensive, if Hamas would stop firing rockets.Moreover, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi said at a news conference, Saturday, with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, that there were indications a ceasefire could soon be reached in Gaza, but there were still “no guarantees.”Sunday’s morning violence brought the total death toll to 53 Palestinians dead, 20 of those civilians, and more than 400 civilians wounded, AP reported. In Israel, three civilians have been killed and more than 50 wounded.