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Israel Mobilizes 20,000 Troops for Possible Gaza Invasion

July 10 (Bloomberg) -- ABC New Correspondent Alex Marquardt reports on the Gaza Strip crisis in Israel. He speaks on “Bloomberg Surveillance.” (Source: Bloomberg)

Israel is mobilizing 20,000 soldiers for a possible ground invasion of the Gaza Strip to halt rocket bombardments on its south, as regional and world leaders appealed for an end to the violence.

The Palestinian death toll from three days of stepped-up Israeli air strikes climbed past 80.

“Where is this leading, is it leading to a ground force incursion? I can’t confirm that,” Israel army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said today in a phone briefing. “I can confirm we are making all the necessary preparations to be ready for that.” Earlier this week, the military was authorized to call up as many as 40,000 reserve troops.

A ground invasion, which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at yesterday with talk of tougher action, would exact a heavier toll from both the Hamas movement that controls Gaza and Palestinian civilians. It would also increase international pressure on Israel to end its offensive, begun after rocket fire from Gaza escalated a month ago. The United Nations Security Council is to hold an emergency meeting on the violence today amid foreign attempts to stop it.

In this charged atmosphere, Israeli security forces stopped a truck with Palestinian license plates, carrying explosives and gas cannisters, at a West Bank checkpoint, police said in a text message. The two people inside the vehicle, who have been arrested, were apparently planning to attack an Israeli target, police said.

Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli tank is driven along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government has authorized the call-up of as many as 40,000 troops as it seeks to stop the rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave. Close

An Israeli tank is driven along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. The... Read More

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Photographer: Jack Guez/AFP via Getty Images

An Israeli tank is driven along the southern Israeli border with the Gaza Strip. The Israeli government has authorized the call-up of as many as 40,000 troops as it seeks to stop the rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian coastal enclave.

Mounting Toll

Eighty-one Gazans have been killed since Israel ramped up its offensive on Tuesday, more than two-thirds of them civilians, emergency medical services chief Ashraf al-Qedra said by phone. At least 10 were children, according to an e-mailed statement from the United Nations Relief Works Agency.

Three of the people killed in Gaza today were senior figures in the territory’s rocket operations, the military said. No Israelis have been killed or seriously injured by the more than 440 rockets the army said were fired since June 8.

Israel’s benchmark TA-25 index fell 0.3 percent at the close in Tel Aviv. The shekel was little changed at 3.4305 to the dollar.

Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Al-Hamdallah, in comments to reporters in Ramallah, called Israel’s killing of civilians “a war crime.” Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has asked UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to help end the fighting.

Changed Dynamic

“There are contacts with regional and international parties to end the military operations and we are asking Israel to show self restraint and to stop military action,” Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty said by phone.

Photographer: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 9, 2014. Close

Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 9, 2014.

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Photographer: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Smoke billows from buildings following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on July 9, 2014.

While Egypt traditionally has mediated truces between Israel and Gaza militants, the dynamic changed after it banned the Islamist Hamas’s activities on Egyptian soil earlier this year. Israel, the U.S. and European Union consider Hamas a terrorist group and shun it.

Secretary of State John Kerry said the U.S. is trying to see if it’s possible to end the “very, very dangerous” violence.

“No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians and we support completely Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks,” Kerry told reporters in Beijing today. “But de-escalation ultimately is in the interest of all parties” in order to protect Israel “while at the same time not seeing innocent people brought into the line of fire.”

Qatar Involved

UN chief Bansaid he has asked Egypt to help restore the Egyptian-brokered truce that ended the last Israeli campaign in November 2012. Qatar is also involved in cease-fire efforts, he said. “Gaza, and the region as a whole, cannot afford another full-blown war,” Ban said, according to an e-mailed transcript from the UN of his remarks at a news conference yesterday.

Photographer: Hatem Moussa/AP Photo

Israel launched strikes against 108 targets today, while militants fired at least eight rockets. About two-third of those killed in Gaza were civilians, including children, medical services chief Ashraf al-Qedra said by phone. Close

Israel launched strikes against 108 targets today, while militants fired at least eight... Read More

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Photographer: Hatem Moussa/AP Photo

Israel launched strikes against 108 targets today, while militants fired at least eight rockets. About two-third of those killed in Gaza were civilians, including children, medical services chief Ashraf al-Qedra said by phone.

Fighting flared over the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank last month, which Israel blamed on Hamas, and the suspected revenge killing of a Palestinian youth in Jerusalem.

Israel has struck more than 650 targets in Gaza since it ramped up its offensive against rocket operations three days ago, including tunnels militants dug under the border with Israel, their homes, rocket launchers, command centers and training camps, the military said. Militants have fired hundreds of rockets into Israel over the past month, including about 100 launched today, the military said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Calev Ben-David in Jerusalem at cbendavid@bloomberg.net; Jonathan Ferziger in Tel Aviv at jferziger@bloomberg.net; Saud Abu Ramadan in Jerusalem at sramadan@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Alaa Shahine at asalha@bloomberg.net Amy Teibel, Mark Williams

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