Israel, Hamas defiant as death toll mounts to 133

Israel, Hamas defiant as death toll mounts to 133

Israel, Hamas defiant as death toll mounts to 133

Israel today intensified its air assault on Gaza to counter rocket attacks by Palestinian militants, taking the death toll to 133 as the Jewish state targeted over 1,100 Hamas positions in five days of offensive.

Two nephews of Hamas ex-PM Ismail Haniyeh were among 28 people killed today, as Gaza was hit by multiple strikes, Palestinian officials said.

At least 133 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its operation, Palestinian sources say.

Israel today said that it has carried out 1,160 strikes since Tuesday while asserting that Hamas fired 689 rockets.

A mosque in the central Gaza Strip was also bombed overnight. A Hamas spokesman reportedly said a pair of mosques was struck in the first attack of its kind since Israel began its offensive.

The Israeli military said the building had been used to store weapons.

Hamas meanwhile said it fired four rockets at the Israeli city of Ashdod.

A large fire broke out in a UN humanitarian relief compound in the east of Gaza City. Israel said it was caused by Hamas rockets falling short, though this has not been confirmed.

Israel hit a residential home for disabled people in Beit Lahiya, Palestinian officials said.

In addition to those killed, at least 950 people - mainly civilians - have been injured, they said.

The Israeli military says it is targeting militants and militant facilities, including the homes of senior operatives. It says "dozens of terrorists" are among those killed.

There is no sign of both sides agreeing on a ceasefire, despite intense diplomacy at the United Nations.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said yesterday that his country will resist foreign pressure to halt its operations.

"The objective is to restore quiet to the cities of Israel, and I intend to achieve this objective," he said, according to the BBC.

Haniya, the most senior Hamas official, also ruled out any halt to hostilities.

"Israel is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are only defending ourselves," he said.

The UN has calculated that 77 per cent of the people killed in Gaza so far have been civilians.A concerned US President Barack Obama has offered to broker a ceasefire with Hamas as he called Netanyahu.

Netanyahu ruled out a ceasefire with Hamas in the short-term, instead vowing a series of "additional stages" to his government's military response to continued rocket fire on Israeli towns and cities by Gaza militants.

Israel has said it is preparing for a possible ground assault on Gaza, with tanks and artillery positioned along the border and about 33,000 reservists mobilised.

Large numbers of armoured vehicles were transported south this morning and troops were seen reaching the border.

Military spokesman General Moti Almoz said he expected the air campaign to continue at least throughout the coming day, as there were still "many targets to attack".

"In parallel, we are preparing the next parts of the operation, readying the forces to enter on the ground," he said.

"Israel's air force will continue to pound targets in the Gaza Strip over the course of at least the next 24 hours," Almoz told Israel Radio stressing that there were still "many" targets in the Gaza Strip remaining.

While air force sorties will continue, the army high command is simultaneously preparing for a ground incursion, he said.

Hamas is "growing increasingly frustrated over its inability to exact casualties among Israeli civilians," Almoz emphasised.

The IDF spokesperson argued that the Israeli army was diligently working to avoid civilian casualties among the Palestinian population in Gaza.

Israel Navy gunboats also struck Hamas targets, including a lookout point as well as a meeting point used by operatives of Hamas as well as the Popular Resistance Committees.

Meanwhile, Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned that escalating the conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza would cost more "innocent lives".

Sisi's spokesman said the government was in touch with both sides after the president met Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair in Cairo.

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