NETANYAHU SAYS WORLD PRESSURE WILL NOT STOP GAZA OFFENSIVE; VOWS ‘BROAD MILITARY OFFENSIVE’
GAZA — A fourth day of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed 11 more Palestinians on Friday, raising the death toll in the coastal enclave to at least 96, most of them civilians, Palestinian officials said.
Facing a possible Israeli ground invasion, militants warned international airlines they would fire rockets at Tel Aviv’s main airport. A rocket also caused the first serious Israeli casualty — one of eight people hurt when a fuel tanker was hit at a service station in Ashdod, 30 km north of Gaza. Medical officials in Gaza said at least 74 civilians, including 23 children, were among those killed in the unrelenting aerial bombardments which Israel began on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Israel’s prime minister vowed Friday to press forward with a broad military offensive in the Gaza Strip, saying international pressure will not halt what he said was a determined effort to halt rocket fire by Palestinian militants as the death toll from the 4-day-old conflict rose above 100.
Addressing a news conference, Netanyahu brushed off a question about possible cease-fire efforts, signaling there was no end in sight to the operation.
“I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet,” Netanyahu said.
Israel launched the offensive on Tuesday in response to weeks of heavy rocket fire out of Gaza. At least 103 Palestinians, including dozens of civilians, have been killed, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza. Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets at Israel.
One rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a gas station and set it ablaze earlier Friday in southern Israel, seriously wounding one man, and the army said the condition of a soldier wounded by rocket shrapnel on Thursday had worsened. But there have been no deaths on the Israeli side, in large part because of a new rocket-defense system that has intercepted more than 100 incoming projectiles.
Netanyahu said he has been in touch with numerous world leaders, including President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, France, Germany and Canada.
He said he had “good discussions” with his counterparts, telling them that no other country would tolerate repeated fire on its citizens.
“No international pressure will prevent us from acting with all power,” he said.
Israel’s allies have backed the country’s right to self-defense, but they have called for restraint. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed concern about the heavy civilian casualties in Gaza, and on Friday, the UN’s top human rights official said the air campaign may violate international laws prohibiting the targeting of civilians.
“We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” said Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
“Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” she said.
Netanyahu brushed aside such criticism, saying Israel’s aerial campaign is aimed at military targets.
He blamed Hamas for causing civilian casualties by hiding in residential areas and criticized the group for targeting Israeli population centers.
Israel has massed thousands of troops along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion. Netanyahu was evasive when asked about the odds of a ground operation, saying only: “We are weighing every possibility.–Reuters, AP