Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed to resist international pressure in deciding how to shut down rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip as the death toll in the Palestinian enclave topped 100.
“We are weighing all options and preparing all options,” Netanyahu said yesterday in a televised news conference, as the military called up 33,000 reserve soldiers in advance of a possible ground incursion into Gaza. Israeli aircraft have led the attack against Gaza rocket squads, which caused the first Israeli civilian casualties of the week’s conflict yesterday when a missile struck a gas station in Ashdod, injuring three.
At least 121 Palestinians have been killed in the air attacks, with hundreds wounded, according to the official Palestinian Wafa news agency. The United Nations aid agency in the region said reports indicate 28 children are among the dead. Netanyahu said his supreme objective was to “restore quiet” to Israel’s communities and “no international pressure will keep us from acting.”
A ground offensive would send casualties higher, and world leaders have sought to steer Netanyahu away from an invasion. Hundreds of civilians and more than 1,000 Gazans in all were killed when Israel last invaded Gaza in January 2009. Israel evacuated the territory in 2005 after a 38-year occupation.
At least 13 Palestinians were killed in overnight and early morning air strikes, Wafa said. The Israeli army said it hit 60 “terror targets,” including a mosque used to store weapons.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay yesterday urged Israel “to take all possible measures to ensure full respect for the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions” in avoiding harm to civilians. Hamas is using civilians as human shields, the Israeli army said on twitter today.
The violence is straining the Palestinian health system, and the World Health Organization is appealing for $60 million dollars to help prevent its possible collapse.
“Doctors and nurses have worked around the clock in the past four days. They never sleep,” emergency medical services chief Ashraf al-Qedra said at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City. “We’re afraid that with the ongoing siege and the ongoing deterioration of services we provide to the people, more will die.”
Netanyahu spoke by phone July 10 with President Barack Obama, who offered to “facilitate a cessation of hostilities,” according to a White House statement. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called on Hamas, which recently ended its seven-year rift with his Palestinian Authority, to end the bloodshed by ceasing its rocket fire.
“What’s important now is to save the people of Gaza,” Abbas said yesterday in an interview with Al Mayadeen television. “The only answer is a political solution.”
Palestinians and their international supporters are discussing a draft UN Security Council resolution that would call for an immediate ceasefire and condemn all violence against civilians, according to an Associated Press report today.
Israel already has deployed three infantry brigades near the Gaza Strip border, army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner said in a phone briefing.
Israel stepped up its air strikes on July 8 after weeks of rocket fire intensified. Netanyahu said the pace of attacks is double that of Israel’s November 2012 operation, also designed to quell rocket bombardments. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S., and European Union.
About 680 rockets have been fired from Gaza in the past four days, with 138 intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. Israel has struck about 1,100 targets in the coastal enclave, including tunnels militants dug under the border with Israel, their homes, rocket launchers, command centers and training camps, according to the army.