November 18, 2012

Medics: Israel strike kills 11 civilians in Gaza

The Associated Press

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A Palestinian woman sits in rubble following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah refugee camp in southern Gaza Strip on Sunday. An Israeli envoy held talks with Egyptian officials Sunday on a ceasefire in his country's offensive on Gaza as Israel widened the range of its targets, striking more than a dozen homes of Hamas militants and two media officials.

AP

The day's deadliest strike hit the home of the Daloo family in Gaza City, reducing the structure to rubble.

Frantic rescuers pulled the bodies of several children from the ruins of the house, including a toddler and a 5-year-old, as survivors and bystanders screamed in grief. Later, the bodies of the children were laid out in the morgue of Gaza City's Shifa Hospital.

Among the 11 dead were four small children and five women, including an 80-year-old, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra said.

Israeli military spokesman Brig Gen. Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 TV that the Israeli navy had targeted the building and killed a "global jihad" militant.

"The targets are exact," Mordechai said. "Every (Israeli) missile has an address."

He said the army would continue its operation "as if there were no (cease-fire) talks in Egypt."

The presence of a militant in the house could not be verified. Al-Kidra said the two adult men killed in the strike were civilians.

Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that "the Israeli people will pay the price" for the killing of civilians. One of the rocket attacks targeting Tel Aviv came soon after the strike on the Daloo home.

More than a dozen homes of Hamas commanders or families linked to Hamas were struck on Sunday. Though most were empty -- their inhabitants having fled to shelter -- at least three still had families in them. Al-Kidra said 19 of the 24 people killed Sunday were civilians, mostly women and children.

Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon said civilian casualties are inevitable.

"You can't avoid collateral damage if they position the rockets in densely populated areas, in mosques, school yards. We shouldn't be blamed for the outcome," he said.

Israel also struck two high-rise buildings housing media outlets, damaging the top floor offices of the Hamas TV station, Al Aqsa, and a Lebanese-based broadcaster, Al Quds TV, seen as sympathetic to the Islamists. Six Palestinian journalists were wounded, including one who lost a leg, a Gaza press association said.

Foreign broadcasters, including British, German and Italian TV outlets, also had offices in the high-rises.

Two missiles made a direct hit on Al Aqsa TV's 15th floor offices, said Bassem Madhoun, an employee of Dubai TV, which has offices in the same building.

Building windows were blown out and glass shards and debris were scattered on the street below. Some of the journalists who had been inside the building at the time took cover in the entrance hallway.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said the strikes targeted Hamas communications equipment on the buildings' rooftops. She accused the group of using journalists as "human shields," and urged journalists to stay clear of Hamas bases and facilities.

The repeated militant rocket fire on Tel Aviv and a volley fired Friday toward Jerusalem have significantly escalated the hostilities by widening the militants' rocket range and putting 3.5 million Israelis, or half the country's population, within reach. The attempt to strike Jerusalem also has symbolic resonance because both Israel and the Palestinians claim the holy city for a capital.

Israeli radio stations repeatedly interrupted their broadcasts to air "Code Red" alerts warning of impending rocket strikes. In the southern city of Ashkelon, rocket fire damaged a residential building, punching a hole in the ceiling and riddling the facade with shrapnel.

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