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Israel pounds Gaza Strip in new campaign, 13 Palestinians dead All Israelis targets after deadly raid: Hamas

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories, July 8, (AFP): Israeli warplanes killed 13 Palestinians Tuesday, pounding the Gaza Strip in a new campaign to stamp out Hamas rocket fire as the two sides slid toward another major conflict. In the most serious flare-up over Gaza since November 2012, it comes as Israel struggles to contain a wave of violence in Arab towns over the grisly murder of a Palestinian teenager by Jewish extremists. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas demanded that Israel “immediately stop” its air campaign, dubbed Operation Protective Edge, and asked the world to pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. But Netanyahu was expected to order a “significant broadening” of the operation and instruct the army to “take off the gloves,” army radio said, quoting a source close to the premier.

After nearly four weeks of intensifying rocket fire on the south, Israel appeared bent on dealing the Islamist Hamas movement a heavy blow, with the cabinet reportedly authorising the call up of some 40,000 reservists. In central Gaza, one man was killed near Nusseirat refugee camp, medics said. Witnesses said he was a member of Hamas’ armed wing, the Ezzedine al- Qassam Brigades. Shortly afterwards, another four people were killed when a missile slammed into a car in Gaza City, medics said. Relatives told AFP the victims were all Hamas militants. One was identified as Mohammed Shaaban, 32,who ran the Brigades’ naval unit. Seven more people were killed and at least 25 wounded when a missile struck a house in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza, medics said. There was no immediate word on their identities. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri warned Israel was “playing with fire” and would pay for its ongoing operations.

The Israeli army was preparing all options to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza, including a ground assault, a senior official told AFP. “The army is preparing for all possible scenarios, including an invasion or a ground operation,” he said. Military spokesman General Moti Almoz told the radio “we have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard,” saying the operation would take place “in stages.” He also confirmed Israel was preparing for a possible ground offensive. Hamas said Tuesday that “all Israelis” would be targeted after a deadly strike on a house in the southern city of Khan Yunis killed seven people, among them two children. “The Khan Yunis massacre... of children is a horrendous war crime, and all Israelis have now become legitimate targets for the resistance,” Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said in a statement.

Medics said another 25 people were wounded in the strike. Meanwhile, the Arab League called Tuesday for the UN Security Council to hold an urgent meeting to discuss the deadly Israeli air campaign against the Gaza Strip, Secretary General Nabil al-Arabi said. Arabi said he had been “in touch with president Abbas to follow the latest developments in the Gaza Strip” while also continuing “consultations with Arab foreign ministers on this subject.”

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