Israel continued its relentless assault of Gaza for a fifth day Saturday, vowing no let-up in a bombing campaign which has killed 127 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and injured nearly 1,000.
Defiant fighters from Gaza responded by firing nine more rockets towards Israeli occupied territories, with Hamas rejecting international calls to surrender, insisting Israel must first end its assault.
In the latest strike, six men were killed in the Sheikh Radwan district of western Gaza City, health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said.
Aged from 21 to 58, they were sitting outside their homes in the area when the strike hit, eyewitnesses said.
Their deaths brought the toll on Saturday alone to 22, including two women killed in a strike that hit a charitable association housing the disabled in Beit Lahiya in northern Gaza.
Another three people were killed in eastern Gaza City, and three in an attack on the western side of town.
Earlier, Qudra announced the deaths of eight other Palestinians, including a man who died of wounds sustained in an earlier strike, five people killed in Gaza’s northern Jabalia and two further south in Deir al-Balah.
According to Qudra, at least 940 people have been wounded since the operation began.
Local officials said the day’s raids across the coastal enclave hit targets that included a bank, two mosques and homes of Hamas officials.
Israel’s occupation forces claimed at least one of the mosques was being used to store weapons.
Speaking at a news conference in Tel Aviv on Friday, Netanyahu said he would not end the assault until he achieved his goal of stopping the Hamas fire.
Ismail Haniya, Gaza’s former premier and the most senior Hamas official in the coastal enclave, ruled out any halt to hostilities.
“(Israel) is the one that started this aggression and it must stop, because we are (simply) defending ourselves,” he said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said he expected a political decision on a possible ground invasion by Sunday.
“At the moment we are dealing with the first phase… air attacks,” he told Channel One television.
“I imagine we shall decide tomorrow (Saturday) or the day after on the next stage.”
Early Saturday, 16 Palestinians died in a wave of Israeli air strikes, taking the overall death toll to 121, medics said.
So far, no one in Israel has been killed. Two have been seriously wounded, including a man at a petrol station hit by a rocket.
Sources – AFP