Gaza — Israel aircraft pounded Hamas government buildings in Gaza yesterday, including the prime minister’s office, after Israel’s cabinet authorised the mobilisation of up to 75 000 reservists, preparing for a possible ground invasion.
Report by Reuters
Hamas, the Islamist group that runs the Gaza Strip, said Israeli planes bombed the office building of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh — where he had met on Friday with the Egyptian prime minister — and struck a police headquarters.
Despite the violence, Tunisia’s foreign minister arrived in the coastal enclave early yesterday in a show of Arab solidarity, heading to a hospital to visit the wounded.
Rocket fire by militants into Israel resumed after dawn following a relative lull overnight, but the number was still lower than on the previous three days since the start of the offensive, an Israeli military spokesman said.
A three-storey house belonging to Hamas official Abu Hassan Salah was also hit and completely destroyed early yesterday.
Rescuers said at least 30 people were pulled from the rubble.
The Israeli army said it had targeted a number of government buildings during the night, including Haniyeh’s office, the Hamas Interior Ministry and a police compound.
On Friday, Palestinians fired a rocket toward Jerusalem for the first time in decades.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial centre, also came under rocket attack for the second straight day, in defiance of Israel’s air campaign that began on Wednesday with the declared aim of deterring Hamas from launching cross-border attacks that have plagued southern Israel for years.
Hamas claimed responsibility for firing at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
Israel said the rocket launched toward Jerusalem landed in the occupied West Bank, and the one fired at Tel Aviv did not hit the city. There were no reports of casualties or damage.
The siren that sounded in Jerusalem stunned many Israelis. The city, holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians, was last hit by a Palestinian rocket in 1970. It was not targeted when Saddam Hussein’s Iraq fired missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a four-hour strategy session late on Friday with a clutch of senior ministers in Tel Aviv on widening the military campaign, while other cabinet members were polled by telephone on increasing mobilisation.
Political sources said they decided to more than double the current reserve troop quota set for the Gaza offensive to 75 000.
It did not necessarily mean all would be called up.
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Kandil paid a high-profile visit to Gaza on Friday, denouncing what he described as Israeli aggression and saying Cairo was prepared to mediate a truce.
Egypt’s Islamist government is allied with Hamas but also party to a 1979 peace treaty with Israel.
“Egypt will spare no effort … to stop the aggression and to achieve a truce,” Kandil said.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of Cairo’s mediation efforts said yesterday Egypt was pursuing a truce.
“Egyptian mediators are continuing their mediation efforts and these will intensify in the coming hours,” he said.
The Israeli military said some 150 rockets fired from Gaza had hit Israel since Friday and at least 83 more were intercepted by its Iron Dome anti-missile system.
In a further sign Netanyahu might be clearing the way for a ground operation, Israel’s armed forces decreed a highway leading to the territory and two roads bordering the enclave of 1,7 million Palestinians off-limits to civilian traffic.