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gaza 8 members of same family killed by IsraelEight members of the same family, including five children, have been killed in Israel’s Gaza offensive which has claimed 85 lives since it began its retaliation for Hamas rocket attacks on Tel Aviv and other Israeli cities.

Palestinian medical officials said a strike early Thursday struck a home in the southern Gaza city of Khan Younis, killing eight members of the Al Haj family.

Earlier, at least eight others were killed when a strike hit a Gaza beach café where they were watching the World Cup semi-final match between Argentina and the Netherlands, said Mahmoud Sawali, who said he lost at least two of his brothers in the attack.

The Israeli military said it was investigating both incidents. It also said it struck a car in Gaza carrying three Islamic Jihad militants involved in firing rockets.

The militant group confirmed that its men were killed in the strike. Hamas officials said that the Palestinian side of its border crossing with Israel had also been destroyed in Israeli airstrikes.

The Israeli military has continued its aerial offensive in Hamas-dominated Gaza for a third day today while militants fired rockets at Israeli cities.

 

The Health Ministry in Gaza has reported 85 deaths, including 22 today. It says about half were women and children though the exact breakdown could not immediately be confirmed. A four-year-old girl and a five-year-old boy were reported to have been among those killed today.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was due to brief the Security Council on the crisis later today, has condemned the rocket attacks and urged Israel to show restraint. He told reporters: ‘Gaza is on a knife edge.’

 

 Military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said Israel struck more than 320 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites. That brought the total number of targets hit to 750 in three days of the offensive.

Lerner said Israel has already mobilized 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximizing its air campaign.

Neither side is showing any sign of halting their heaviest fighting since an eight-day battle in late 2012. Israel says that Hamas must cease rocket fire from Gaza for Israel to consider a truce.

srael has said militants have fired hundreds of rockets, striking across the length of the country. No one has been seriously harmed as the Iron Dome defence system has intercepted at least 70 of the projectiles destined for major population centers.

‘The ground option needs to be the last option and only if it is absolutely necessary. It is a carefully designed plan of action,’ Lerner said.

The Israeli security Cabinet was meeting to discuss its next moves.

Secretary of State John Kerry, in Beijing for a summit with Chinese leaders, said the U.S. is trying to stem the surging violence in a way that allows the Jewish state to continue defending itself from Hamas rocket fire. He called it a ‘dangerous moment’ for the Mideast.

Kerry said he has spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said the operation was going according to plan, with Israel targeting various Hamas interests.

‘The military’s successes so far have been very significant,’ he said. ‘We will continue until they understand that this escalation is not beneficial to them and that we will not tolerate rocket fire toward our towns and citizens.’

Hamas’s armed wing said it fired six rockets at Israel early on Thursday. Confrontations were also reported at sea where Palestinian militants in Gaza said they fired mortars and rockets at Israeli gunboats shooting at the coastal territory.

Israel accuses militants of deliberately endangering civilians by using homes and other civilian buildings for cover. The military has also directly targeted the offices and homes of known militants that it says are used as command centers. The military typically contacts the families first to ask civilians to evacuate before striking its targets.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Hamas is firing rockets from ‘within houses and streets and neighborhoods which are populated with civilians… exposing these civilians to retaliation and to backfire.’

After an overnight lull, militants resumed their barrage toward central and southern Israel. Remnants of a long-range rocket fired from Gaza landed in a gas station in south Tel Aviv after being shot down by Israel’s ‘Iron Dome’ defence system.

The longer range of the rockets fired from Gaza has disrupted life across southern and central Israel, where people have been forced to remain close to home, and kindergartens and summer camps have closed. Israeli television has been a constant news loop with updates from both sides of the border and even radio music stations were interrupting songs with news of every siren informing of incoming rockets.

‘We heard the siren and we immediately entered the home shelter,’ said Avraham Nachum, from the southern Israeli town of Netivot. ‘One of the boys was in the shower. He didn’t manage to step outside of the shower on time.’

Besides firing toward Israel’s two largest cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas also launched a rocket that reached the town of Zichron Yaakov, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza.

Initially, Israel said that ‘quiet would be met with quiet’ but as the rocket fire has reached deeper into Israel officials have taken a tougher stand saying the rocket threat against Israel must be lifted.

‘The state of Israel is ready for every scenario in order to protect its citizens,’ said President Shimon Peres. ‘The Hamas is killing the citizens of Gaza by placing them where rockets are being fired.’

Late on Thursday, Israeli police said they intercepted a Palestinian car whose two occupants were trying to smuggle a bomb into Israel from the West Bank. Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the men were arrested at a West Bank checkpoint, and the bomb was being dismantled.

Palestinians have said Israel has targeted more than 70 homes in its offensive. The Israeli military said on Wednesday it had bombed 550 Hamas sites, including 60 rocket launchers and 11 homes of senior Hamas members. It described those dwellings as command centres.

Washington backed Israel’s actions in Gaza, while the European Union and U.N. urged restraint on both sides.

Israel said Gaza militants fired more than 105 rockets on Wednesday – at least 82 struck inside the country, and an additional 21 were intercepted.

Some were aimed at Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant, 80 km (50 miles) from Gaza, but were either shot down or landed in open country.

Dimona, the desert site of a nuclear reactor and widely assumed to have a role in atomic weaponry, was targeted by locally made M-75 long-range rockets, militants said. The Israeli army said Iron Dome shot down one, and two others caused no damage.

Communities near coastal Tel Aviv and in the south, closer to Gaza, were also targeted. In the longest-range attack since the offensive began, a rocket hit near Zichron Yaakov, more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) north of Gaza, on Wednesday.

Israeli and U.S. officials have today said Israel’s Iron Dome interceptor has shot down some 90 per cent of Palestinian rockets it engaged during this week’s surge of Gaza fighting, up from the 85 per cent rate in the conflict of 2012.

Seven batteries of the system, made by the state-owned Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd and partly funded by Washington, have been rotated around Israel to tackle unprecedented long-range salvoes by Hamas guerrillas.

Israel said it attacked 326 targets in Gaza on Wednesday, including concealed rocket launchers, tunnels suspected of being intended for armed cross-border infiltrations, training bases, and weapons storage and production facilities.

In an attack after darkness fell, Israel targeted a car marked as a media vehicle of a Gaza website that had the letters ‘TV’ on it. It killed the driver, medical officials said.

The Israeli-Palestinian violence began building up three weeks ago after three Jewish students were abducted in the occupied West Bank. They were killed and their bodies were found last week. Then a Palestinian teenager was kidnapped and killed in Jerusalem.

Daily Mail

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