GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli forces pounded dozens of targets in Gaza Saturday and planes dropped leaflets warning residents of an escalation in attacks, as southern Israel came under more Palestinian rocket fire.
Egypt hosted talks aimed at ending the violence.
Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting. The Israeli threat to launch a “new phase” in its two-week-old offensive that has already killed more than 800 Palestinians came in defiance of international calls for a cease-fire.
“The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) will escalate the operation in the Gaza Strip,” the leaflets said in Arabic. “The IDF is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only. Stay safe by following our orders.”
The leaflets urged Gaza residents not to help Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza, and to stay away from its members.
The Israeli military said more than 15 militants were killed in overnight fighting. It said aircraft attacked more than 40 targets including 10 rocket-launching sites, weapons-storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, an anti-aircraft missile launcher and gunmen.
In the day’s bloodiest incident, an Israeli tank shell killed nine people in a garden outside a home in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliya. Separately, a woman was killed by an airstrike in the southern town of Rafah.
Israel has come under international criticism for the rising number of civilian casualties. Paramedics said the nine people killed in the garden were from the same clan and included two children and two women.
“Residents brought them to the hospital in a civilian car. They put them all in the trunk because their bodies were mangled,” said hospital administrator Adham Hakim.
The Israeli army had no immediate comment, but has repeatedly accused Hamas of using residential areas for cover. Earlier this week, an Israeli attack outside a U.N. school killed nearly 40 people. Both Israel and Palestinian witnesses said militants carried out an attack from the area moments earlier.
Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to halt years of Palestinian rocket attacks on southern Israel. A week later, ground troops moved in.
Palestinian medical officials say more than 800 Palestinians have been killed, roughly half of them civilians. Thirteen Israelis have been killed — four of them by militant rockets, the rest in battle in Gaza. Five soldiers were lightly wounded in Saturday’s fighting.
Israel and Hamas ignored a U.N. resolution passed Thursday calling for an immediate and durable cease-fire that would lead to the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza.
Israel has dismissed the Security Council resolution as impractical, while Hamas, whose government in Gaza is not recognized internationally, is angry it was not consulted in the diplomatic efforts.
source : news.yahoo.com