Netanyahu Says All Options Open as Gaza Death Toll Tops 100
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said international pressure won’t keep his country from taking action to end a barrage of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as the death toll in the Palestinian enclave topped 100.
“We are weighing all options and preparing all options,” Netanyahu said today in a televised news conference, as the military called up 33,000 reserve soldiers in advance of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Israeli aircraft so far have led the attack against Gaza rocket squads, which caused the first Israeli civilian casualty of the week's conflict today when a missile struck a gas station in Ashdod, injuring three.
At least 102 Palestinians, including about 21 children and other civilians, have died in the air attacks, drawing criticism from the United Nations today. Netanyahu said his supreme objective was to “restore quiet” to Israel’s communities and “no international pressure will keep us from acting.”
A ground offensive would send casualties higher, and world leaders have sought to steer Netanyahu away from an invasion. Hundreds of civilians and more than 1,000 Gazans in all were killed when Israel last invaded Gaza in January 2009. Israel evacuated the territory in 2005 after a 38-year occupation.
In addition to the deaths in Gaza, more than 700 people have been wounded, emergency medical services chief Ashraf al Qedra said today.
More Deaths Feared
“Doctors and nurses have worked around the clock in the past four days. They never sleep,” al-Qedra said at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. “We’re afraid that with the ongoing siege and the ongoing deterioration of services we provide to the people, more will die.”
Yesterday, Netanyahu spoke by phone with President Barack Obama, who offered to “facilitate a cessation of hostilities,” according to a White House statement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas, which recently ended its seven-year rift with his Palestinian Authority, to end the bloodshed.
Israel already has deployed three infantry brigades near the Gaza Strip border, army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a phone briefing.
Israel stepped up its air strikes on July 8 after weeks of rocket fire intensified. Netanyahu said the pace of attacks is double that of Israel’s November 2012 operation, also designed to quell rocket bombardments. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., and European Union.
Fire From Lebanon
About 630 rockets have been fired from Gaza in the past four days and Israel has struck about 1,100 targets in the coastal enclave, including tunnels militants dug under the border with Israel, their homes, rocket launchers, command centers and training camps, according to the army.
The shekel was little changed at 3.4305 to the dollar.
As Israel battled the Gaza rockets, rocket fire also struck its northern flank from southern Lebanon, for the first time since the Israeli military stepped up its offensive on July 8. No one claimed responsibility. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire, Lerner said. Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah and Palestinian fighters are also located there.
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