War looms after Hamas rocket kills three Israelis in Gaza Strip

A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 13 and a military showdown lurched closer to all-out war with an invasion of the enclave.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets in and around Gaza city, where tall buildings trembled. Plumes of smoke and dust furled into a sky laced with the vapor trails of outgoing rockets.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi said in a televised address to the nation that Israel's attacks on the Gaza Strip were “unacceptable” and would lead to instability in the region. In a telephone conversation with US President Barack Obama, Mursi said he had discussed “ways to reach calm and end the aggression”. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas claimed it had fired a one-ton, Iranian-made Fajr 5 rocket at Tel Aviv in what would be a major escalation, but there was no reported impact in the Israeli metropolis 50 km (30 miles) north of the enclave. Israel’s sworn enemy Iran, which supports and arms Hamas, condemned the offensive begun by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) as “organized terrorism”.

Israel was more concerned about the mood in Egypt, whose new Islamist government brokered a truce between the two sides on Tuesday only to see it shattered a day later when Israel assassinated the top Hamas military commander. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood which now controls Egypt, Israel’s most powerful Arab neighbor and a crucial partner in the 1979 peace treaty that stands between fragile stability and regional chaos.Cairo had condemned the offensive and recalled its ambassador from Israel.

Israel’s ambassador left Cairo on what was called a routine home visit and Israel said its embassy would stay open. The dominant Muslim Brotherhood, spiritual mentor of Hamas, called for a 'Day of Rage’ in Arab capitals on Friday. In Lebanon, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia Hezbollah denounced Israel’s strikes on Gaza as “criminal aggression” and called on Arab states to “stop the genocide”.

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