Thursday, November 15, 2012

Gaza Crisis: Israel's Defense Minister Calls Up Army Reservists

15 November 2012
Last updated at 23:17 ET

Gaza crisis: Israel's Barak calls up army reservists

Israeli trucks have transported tanks and other armoured vehicles towards Gaza

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has authorised the call-up of 30,000 army reservists, amid speculation about a possible ground offensive on Gaza.

There were a number of heavy strikes on Gaza overnight.

Israel's army tweeted: "Before action, the IDF disperses warning leaflets calling all civilians to evacuate the area. This happened [on Thursday]."

The developments came after Palestinian militants fired rockets from Gaza 70km (45 miles) north towards Tel Aviv.

Egyptian PM Hisham Qandil is to travel to Gaza later in a show of support.

Fighting has intensified since Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, the military leader of the Islamist group that controls the territory, on Wednesday.

At least 18 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed in Israeli airstrikes, including children, and three Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rocket fire into southern Israel.

'Unacceptable aggression'

By Thursday night, Hamas said it had fired more than 350 rockets from Gaza, of which Israel said 130 had been intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system.

But in Tel Aviv, residents took cover after air raid sirens alerted them to a missile threat for the first time there since 1991. One missile landed in an uninhabited area while one is thought to have landed in the sea.

The armed wing of Islamic Jihad said it had fired an Iranian-built, Fajr-5 rocket - which has an estimated range of 75km.

The focus of the Israeli night-time television news was the possible widening of this conflict to affect the country's biggest city and main commercial centre, Tel Aviv, where alarms sounded earlier.

There were no reported injuries but two rockets, apparently with a longer-than-usual range, landed nearby.

With national media also reporting the movement of Israeli troops towards Gaza and the authorisation of the call-up of reservists, there are growing signs of a further escalation in fighting.

Life on hold in Israel towns Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak said targeting Tel Aviv would "exact a price that the other side will have to pay".

Early on Friday, the army said leaflets had been dropped over several locations in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, warning residents "to stay away from Hamas, and other terror organizations".

Late on Thursday, BBC correspondents in Gaza reported several massive explosions and missile fire in and around Gaza City as Israeli strikes continued.

There were also reports of buses of Israeli troops - and trucks loaded with tanks and armoured personnel carriers - heading towards the coastal enclave.

Israeli television stations said the build-up suggested an incursion was planned, but military officials said no decision had been made.

The Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, condemned what he called Israel's "ferocious assault" against the territory.

"We here in Gaza will remain steadfast and unshaken," he said in a televised statement. "We are all confident in our intrepid resistance fighters who are now deployed on the front."

Many of the Palestinians killed in Gaza during the last two days by the Israeli aerial and naval bombardment were members of militant groups, but civilians - including at least four children - were also among the dead. They included 11-month-old Omar, the son of Jihad Misharawi, a BBC Arabic picture editor.

The three Israeli civilians who died - two women and a man - were killed on the top floor of a block of flats in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi that suffered a direct hit by a rocket.

Egypt's new Islamist President Mohammed Mursi called the Israeli bombardment "unacceptable aggression" and said it would affect stability in the region.

The BBC understands that Cairo is actively trying to mediate between Israel and Hamas over the fighting.

The United States, Israel's key ally, has urged Egypt, Turkey and European powers who have contact with Hamas to urge it to stop rocket attacks from Gaza, saying the onus was on Hamas to stop the violence.

Arab League foreign ministers are set to discuss the violence later on Friday.

Israel's aerial and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip is its most intense assault on the Palestinian territory since it launched a full-scale invasion four years ago.

Are you in Israel or Gaza? Have you been affected? Send us your comments.

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