New Israel strike on Gaza kills 3, pushes toll to 80
Three people were killed early Monday morning in new Israeli air strikes on Gaza, pushing the death toll in six days of violence to 80 Palestinians, health officials said.
"The toll of martyrs has risen to 80 with the deaths of Nisma Abu Zorr, 23, Mohammed Abu Zorr, 5, and Ahid al-Qatati 35, in an air strike on the Azzam home in east Gaza City," health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
The strike in the Zeitun neighbourhood came after a night that saw Israeli war planes level a Gaza City police station as navy ships kept up sustained fire at the Gaza shore.
The deaths came after multiple raids on Sunday that killed 31, in the bloodiest day of Israel's bombing campaign, medics said. The number of injuries rose over 700, officials said.
At least 10 children, five of them babies and toddlers, and six women were among those killed on Sunday, in attacks that came even as diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodshed which began on Wednesday.
The violence has also cost the lives of three Israelis and injured more than 50, according to medical sources.
By far the deadliest strike was in northern Gaza City where a missile levelled a three-storey building, killing nine members of the Al-Dallu family -- five of them children -- and two other people, medics said.
Qudra named the dead as policeman Mohammed al-Dallu, 35, Suheila al-Dallu, 50, Samah al-Dallu, 22, and five children: Jamal and Sara, whose ages were not immediately available, five-year-old Yussef, two-year-old Ranin, and 11-month-old Ibrahim.
The body of another woman from the same family was also pulled from the rubble but her identity was not immediately clear.
The other two victims, who lived next door, were named as Amina Mattar al-Muzzana, 83, and Abdullah Mohammed al-Muzzana, 22, Qudra said.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment on the strike, only saying the air force had hit "a few targets in northern Gaza City".
Israel and Palestine: New war is looming?
Israel’s five-day-old air offensive in the Gaza Strip expanded to target Hamas government buildings on Saturday, and Palestinian militants continued firing a torrent of rockets at civilian areas in southern Israel, as both sides stepped up diplomatic efforts to win support.
The Israeli government has fought off millions of attempts to hack state websites since the start of its Gaza offensive four days ago.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said on Sunday that in the past four days Israel had "deflected 44 million cyber attacks on government websites. All the attacks were thwarted except for one, which targeted a specific website that was down for six or seven minutes."
His remarks came a day after the online activist group Anonymous claimed to have downed dozens of websites of Israeli state agencies and a top bank in protest over the Jewish state's deadly air assault.
China urges maximum restraint, immediate ceasefire in Gaza
China on Monday urged parties concerned, especially Israel, to exercise maximum restraint in the on-going Gaza Strip conflict.
"We strongly urge all parties, Israel in particular, to show maximum restraint, reach an immediate ceasefire, and avoid taking any actions to escalate the situation," Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a daily news briefing.
Arab League mulls aid for Gaza
The Palestinian Authority has called for an emergency meeting of Arab heads of state and government to discuss measures to end the Israeli aggression in Gaza.
According to Arab League officials, the organization will be meeting very shortly to provide political and considerable economic and financial assistance to the Palestinians.
Operation Pillar of Smoke which has been carried out by Israel since November 14 aims to destroy the Gaza militants and their infrastructure. The sides have so far been exchanging rocket fire, but Tel Aviv is not ruling out a full-scale ground invasion of the enclave.
Obama warns against Gaza escalation
The U.S. President Barack Obama said yesterday an incursion by Israeli forces into the Gaza Strip could only deepen its death toll, cautioning against an escalation even as he defended the Jewish state's right to defend itself.
"Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory," Obama said in Bangkok yesterday at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia.
"If that can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza, that's preferable," he said. "It's not just preferable for the people of Gaza.
It's also preferable for Israelis, because if Israeli troops are in Gaza, they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded."
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that Israel was prepared to significantly expand its military operation in Gaza. Obama has been lobbying Netanyahu along with the leaders of Egypt and Turkey to try to halt the crisis - including stopping rocket strikes on Israel.
He said Israel was justly responding to "an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory, but in areas that are populated. And there's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders."
Obama said Palestinians will have no chance to pursue their own state and a lasting peace with Israel as long as rockets are fired into Israel.
The US president said he hoped for a clearer process over the next 48 hours.
Israeli troops continue amassing along Gaza border
Israeli ground troops and armored vehicles continued to build up along the border with the Gaza Strip on Sunday, amid reports that Egypt-brokered truce talks have broken down.
Though the army has not confirmed that it will enter the enclave, signs of an incoming invasion of the strip loom in the horizon, as Israel's Channel 2 TV reported that talks for a ceasefire with Hamas in Gaza have failed.
Earlier in the day, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel is ready to talk about a ceasefire when Hamas stops launching rockets into its territory, according to Ynet News site.
"We don't see any partner for any political settlement," Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon told reporters on Sunday, neither denying nor confirming that the truce talks had failed.
"Regarding operational considerations we should be ready to deploy whatever is needed to reach peace and quiet. So far we tried to make it, to achieve it, by surgical airstrikes, but we should be ready to deploy more troops in different types of operations in order to reach this goal (peace)," Yaalon said, hinting at the possibility of a ground operation.
Yaalon also confirmed that Israel is broadening its offensive in Gaza.
"We are broadening the scope of targets, like Hamas government offices, the interior ministry compound, and so forth, but not broadening the use of different weapons," he told reporters.
During the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday, Netanyahu said the army is prepared for a ground invasion of the tiny coastal enclave.
"We are exacting a heavy price from the Hamas and the other militant organization and the IDF (Israel Defense Forces) is prepared for a significant expansion of its operation," Netanyahu said.
On Sunday, Operation Pillar of Defense, launched by Israel against Hamas in Gaza, entered its fifth day with more rocket barrages hitting the southern communities of Israel. Sirens sounded also in Tel Aviv for the fourth day in a row since Thursday, with rockets intercepted over Tel Aviv's sky by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system.
According to the latest figures from the Israeli military, over 120 rockets have landed in Israel on Sunday, with 14 people wounded. More than 30 rockets from Gaza were intercepted on Sunday.
Since the beginning of the operation on Wednesday, over 980 rockets have been launched from Gaza at Israel, of which 287 have been intercepted.