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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gaza Day 2: First Israeli casualties

Israel prepares to mobilize 30,000 reserve troops for possible invasion of Gaza after three civilians are killed in direct hit on their apartment building

The deaths in Kiryat Malachi of two men and a woman were the first in Israel since the nation stunned Hamas by assassinating its military commander in the middle of Gaza City on Wednesday. 

NEW YORK DAILY NEWS THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 2012
BY MATTHEW KALMAN


HATEM MOUSSA/AP
Smoke rises following an Israeli attack on Gaza City on Thursday.

KIRYAT MALACHI, Israel — Israel prepared Thursday night to mobilize 30,000 reserve troops for a possible invasion of Gaza after three Israeli civilians were killed in a direct hit on their apartment building and two Iranian-supplied Fajr-5 rockets fell close to Tel Aviv.

There were no injuries or damage in Tel Aviv, but the deaths in Kiryat Malachi of two men and a woman were the first in Israel since the nation stunned Hamas by assassinating its military commander in the middle of Gaza City on Wednesday.

Meni Azriel, a volunteer with the ZAKA disaster rescue group who lives in the next building, said he found a badly injured woman in a fourth-floor apartment among the devastation caused by the blast and tried to save her, but a doctor arrived and pronounced her dead.

“The firefighters then broke into the apartment next door, where we unfortunately discovered two more dead victims,” Azriel told the Daily News. “It was a terrible sight.”

In Tel Aviv, for the first time since Saddam Hussein’s Scud attacks in the 1991 Gulf War, sirens wailed across the city, sending surprised residents hurrying to shelters in Israel’s densely populated commercial heartland.

TSAFRIR ABAYOV/AP
The Iron Dome defense system fires to interecpt incoming missiles from Gaza in the port town of Ashdod on Thursday.

Israeli military officials warned Tel Aviv residents to expect “an unquiet night.”

The unexpected resilience of Palestinian militants, who managed to fire off 300 rockets across the border despite a 24-hour pounding from Israeli aircraft and naval gunboats, switched Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense into a more offensive mode.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the operation retained its original goals — to “strengthen our deterrence, and restore the peace” — but he warned, “The general rocket fire, and in particular, the rockets at the (Tel Aviv) region, reflect an escalation, and the other side will pay a heavy price for this escalation.”

Israel continued its barrage of attacks on nearly 300 targets across the Hamas-controlled enclave and began moving D9 bulldozers and tanks into position on the border for a possible land invasion.

“I hope that Hamas and the other terrorist organizations in Gaza got the message,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters in Tel Aviv.


HATEM MOUSSA/AP
Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Al-Jabari, killed in an Israeli strike on Wednesday, during his funeral in Gaza City on Thursday.


President Obama spoke Wednesday with Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday. “In both conversations, the President reiterated the United States’ support for Israel’s right to self-defense” while urging Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties, Carney said.

“There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organizations are employing against the people of Israel,” Carney added.

In Gaza, a massive wave of more than 300 aerial and artillery strikes left a trail of destruction and sent plumes of smoke soaring into the air. Several people were reported killed, bringing the Palestinian death toll to 16.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said Israel would suffer “for this open war which they initiated.”

There was a brief respite after noon prayers, when a crowd of several thousand carried the body of the slain Hamas leader Ahmed Al-Jabari from the Al-Omari mosque in the center of Gaza City to a cemetery, accompanied by dozens of armed men who fired weapons into the air.

Earlier, hundreds attended the funerals of four children killed in Israeli attacks on Wednesday.

Morsi led Arab calls of condemnation and demanded urgent action from the United Nations and the international community.

“The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region,” he said.

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