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Israeli military counts 800-plus Gaza airstrikes

Gaza city, Nov 17 (AP) 23:53 IST
Israel bombarded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip with more than 180 airstrikes early today, the military said, widening a blistering assault on militant operations to include the prime minister's headquarters, a police compound and a vast network of smuggling tunnels.

The new attacks followed an unprecedented rocket strike aimed at the contested holy city of Jerusalem that raised the stakes in Israel's violent confrontation with Palestinian militants.

Israeli aircraft also kept pounding their original targets, the militants' weapons storage facilities and underground rocket launching sites. The Israeli military called up thousands of reservists and massed troops, tanks and armoured vehicles along the border with Hamas-ruled Gaza, signaling a ground invasion could be imminent.

Militants, undaunted by the heavy damage the Israeli attacks have inflicted, have unleashed some 500 rockets against the Jewish state, including new, longer-range weapons turned for the first time this week against Jerusalem and Israel's Tel Aviv heartland.

Six people, including five militants, were killed and dozens were wounded in the various attacks today, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said. In all, 35 Palestinians, including 13 civilians, and three Israeli civilians have been killed since the Israeli operation began.

Israel had been slowly expanding its operation beyond military targets but before dawn today it ramped that up dramatically, hitting Hamas symbols of power. A three-story apartment building belonging to a Hamas military commander was hit, and ambulances ferried out more than 30 inhabitants wounded by the powerful explosion.

Missiles smashed into two small security facilities as well as the massive Hamas police headquarters in Gaza City, setting off a huge blaze that engulfed nearby houses and civilian cars parked outside, the Interior Ministry reported.

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