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Israel hits at Hamas roots in new airstrikes

 A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Edwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya, norther...
 A pall of smoke rises after an explosion from an Israeli missile strike on the Hamas controlled Islamic University in Gaza City, Monday, Dec. 29, 200...
 Three Palestinian brothers Sidki, 8, Ahmad, 12, and Mohammed Absi, 14, (no left-right available)  who were killed in an Israeli missile strike, durin...
 Palestinian women cross a street during clashes with Israeli troops, not seen, at a demonstration against Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the...
 A Palestinian mourner shouts as he lifts the body of one of the victims, during the funeral of five members of the Balosha family, including three ch...
 A young Palestinian protester holds a stone during clashes with Israeli troops, not seen, at a demonstration against Israel's military operation in G...
  Israeli soldiers are seen at a staging area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Israel's overwhelmi...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

A Palestinian man carries his wounded child to the treatment room of Kamal Edwan hospital following an Israeli missile strike in Beit Lahiya, norther...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS GAZA

A pall of smoke rises after an explosion from an Israeli missile strike on the Hamas controlled Islamic University in Gaza City, Monday, Dec. 29, 200...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS GAZA

Three Palestinian brothers Sidki, 8, Ahmad, 12, and Mohammed Absi, 14, (no left-right available) who were killed in an Israeli missile strike, durin...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Palestinian women cross a street during clashes with Israeli troops, not seen, at a demonstration against Israel's military operation in Gaza, in the...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

A Palestinian mourner shouts as he lifts the body of one of the victims, during the funeral of five members of the Balosha family, including three ch...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

A young Palestinian protester holds a stone during clashes with Israeli troops, not seen, at a demonstration against Israel's military operation in G...

MIDEAST ISRAEL PALESTINIANS

Israeli soldiers are seen at a staging area near Israel's border with the Gaza Strip, in southern Israel, Monday, Dec. 29, 2008. Israel's overwhelmi...

Israel turned the force of its punishing Gaza campaign toward Hamas field operatives on Monday, sending warplanes to bomb their houses in a sweep meant to tear at the roots of the militant organization.
Yet even with their senior leadership in hiding, the battered Islamic militants managed to fire dozens of rockets at southern Israel on Monday.
A tough-talking Israeli defense minister promised them a "war to the bitter end," as the three-day death toll in Israel's shock-and-awe offensive rose to 364.
The overwhelming air assault, a response to intensified militant rocket fire, has rattled the Middle East and capitals around the world, triggering street protests and fiery speeches by key adversaries of Israel like Lebanon's Hezbollah. In the largest street rally yet, tens of thousands of Lebanese Hezbollah supporters stood under pouring rain in Beirut Monday to protest the assault.
Stone-throwing clashes also broke out in around half a dozen places in the West Bank as well as in several Arab-populated areas inside Israel.
On the outskirts of Jerusalem, dozens of Palestinian youths darted around burning barricades of tires and furniture to hurl rocks at Israeli police and soldiers. The Israeli forces responded with rubber bullets and tear gas, but it did not appear that anyone was injured.
The targets Israel chose to strike on Monday revealed an intention to chip away at Hamas' foundation. Israel carried out five separate strikes on the houses of field operatives, though there has been no confirmation that any of them were killed.
And in grainy surveillance video from an overhead drone released by Israel's military, several men are seen loading a pickup truck with what the military said were medium-range Grad rockets. Moments later, a large explosion from a missile strike envelops the image.
One of the strikes against field operatives targeted a house in Jebaliya refugee camp, killing seven people, but the Hamas activist was not there. Another hit the Jebaliya home of Abdel-Karim Jaber, a Hamas political figure, though not widely known. Jaber, a senior administrator at Gaza's Islamic University, was not at home at the time and it wasn't immediately clear if anyone was hurt in the strike.
In another air assault, an Islamic Jihad commander was killed as he was walking near his house.
As signs mounted that the Gaza offensive could widen into a ground war, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel's parliament he wants to strike a devastating blow against Hamas. However, later Monday he indicated a ground assault is not inevitable, issuing an ultimatum-sounding statement that he is giving Hamas a last chance to halt its rocket fire.
Short of reoccupying Gaza, however, it is unlikely that any amount of Israeli firepower will be able to completely snuff out the rocket barrages. Past operations have all failed to do so.
In preparation for a possible ground offensive, Israel has begun massing troops on the Gaza border and the Cabinet approved a call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers, though no full combat formations have been mobilized. Areas around Gaza have been declared "closed military zones."
A final decision to call up reserves has yet to be made, and the Cabinet decision could be a pressure tactic. Military experts said Israel would need at least 10,000 soldiers for a full-scale invasion.
Meanwhile, Israel continued to strike from the skies with its fleet of warplanes, helicopters and pilotless drones. Airstrikes on more than 320 sites since midday Saturday have reduced dozens of buildings to rubble, overwhelmed hospitals with wounded and filled Gaza's deserted streets with smoke and fire. The military said naval vessels have also bombarded targets from the sea.
For the first time, Israel also hit one of a series of tunnels Hamas prepared along the border with Israel for use in attacks on invading ground forces, several Israeli TV networks reported. One of the tunnels was packed with explosives and several militants inside were killed, Channel 1 said.
On Monday, aircraft pulverized a house next to the home of Hamas Premier Ismail Haniyeh, a security compound and a five-story building at a university closely linked to the Islamic group _ all symbols of Hamas strength in the coastal territory it has ruled since June 2007.
A day earlier, airstrikes took out dozens of smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, cutting off a key lifeline that had supplied Hamas with weapons and Gaza with commercial goods. The bombardment sent hundreds of residents fleeing their homes.
Most of those killed in three days of airstrikes have been Hamas members, but the U.N. agency in charge of Palestinian refugees said at least 51 of the dead were civilians. A rise in civilian casualties could intensify international pressure on Israel to abort the offensive.
A Hamas police spokesman, Ehab Ghussen, said 180 members of the Hamas security forces were among the total number of dead.
Eight children under the age of 17 were killed in two separate strikes overnight, medics said Monday.
Still, militant rocket barrages continued. Sirens warning of incoming rockets sent Israelis scrambling for cover throughout the day Monday as more than 40 rockets and mortar rounds rained down.
One medium-range rocket fired at the Israeli city of Ashkelon killed an Arab construction worker there Monday and wounded several others. He was the second Israeli killed since the beginning of the offensive, and the first person ever to be killed by a rocket in Ashkelon, a city of 120,000.
On Sunday, Hamas missiles struck for the first time near the city of Ashdod, twice as far from Gaza as Ashkelon and only 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Israel's heart in Tel Aviv. Hamas leaders have also threatened to renew suicide attacks inside Israel.
In Gaza, some families left their apartments next to institutions linked to Hamas, fearing they could be targeted. Suad Abu Wadi, 42, was keeping her six children close to her on mattresses in her Gaza City living room. Her husband sat with them, chain-smoking. Abu Wadi said he had not said a word since seeing their neighbor carrying the body of his child, killed in an airstrike Saturday.
Gaza's nine hospitals were overwhelmed. Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, who keeps a record for the Gaza Health Ministry, said 364 Palestinians have died and more than 1,400 have been wounded. Some of the injured are now being taken to private clinics and even homes, he said.
Israeli security officials have warned that the militants' range now includes Beersheba, a major city 30 miles (50 kilometers) from Gaza. Resident Mazal Ivgi, 62, said she had prepared a bomb shelter. "In the meantime we don't really believe it's going to happen, but when the first boom comes people will be worried," she said.
A graphic displayed on Israeli television illustrated the growing rocket reach with overlapping, color-coded circles. Those in the closest range were advised to stay within a 15-second dash of a bomb shelter.
Israel opened one of Gaza's border crossings Monday to allow several ambulances and 62 aid trucks, including shipments of donated blood, to cross. Jordan was also sending doctors.
On Monday, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded four Israelis in a West Bank settlement before he was shot and wounded. It was not immediately clear if the attack was directly connected to the events in Gaza.
___
Additional reporting by Associated Press Writer Aron Heller in Ashkelon. Jason Keyser reported from Jerusalem.


Updated : 2021-07-25 06:31 GMT+08:00