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Gaza toll 96 in Israeli bombing


Palestinians and rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah in Gaza Strip, Friday. Photo — Reuters

Gaza/Occupied Jerusalem: A fourth day of Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip killed 11 more Palestinians yesterday, 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, fighters 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.

Hamas's armed wing said it would fire rockets at Tel Aviv's Ben-Gurion international airport and warned airlines not to fly to Israel's main gateway to the world.

The airport has been fully operational since the Israeli offensive began and international airlines have continued to fly in, with no reports of rockets from Gaza landing anywhere near the facility, inland of the coastal metropolis. It is within an area covered by Iron Dome.

"The armed wing of the Hamas movement has decided to respond to the Israeli aggression, and we warn you against carrying out flights to Ben-Gurion airport, which will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," said a statement by Hamas's Izz El Deen Al Qassam Brigades.

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.

Israel said it was determined to end cross-border rocket attacks that intensified last month after its forces arrested hundreds of activists from the Hamas movement in West Bank following the abduction there of three Jewish teenagers who were later found killed. A Palestinian youth was killed in Jerusalem in a suspected Israeli revenge attack.

Ready to act
Israel's military commander, Lieutenant-General Benny Gantz, said his forces were ready to act as needed — an indication of a readiness to send in tanks and other ground troops, as Israel last did for two weeks in early 2009: "We are in the midst of an assault and we are prepared to expand it as much as is required, to wherever is required, with whatever force will be required and for as long as will be required," Gantz told reporters.

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