Israel steps up aerial bombardment of Gaza as ground forces are readied

Israel has dramatically escalated its aerial assault on Gaza, hitting hundreds of Hamas targets. The Palestinians said a family of eight was killed in a strike that destroyed their home. Israel’s missile defence system once again intercepted rockets fired by militants at the country’s heartland. Military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said Israel struck more than 320 Hamas targets overnight, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket-launching sites. That brought the total number of targets hit to 750 in three days of the massive offensive.

This is one of the most critical tests the region has faced in recent years. Gaza is on a knife-edge. The deteriorating situation is leading to a downward spiral which could quickly get beyond anyone’s control.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Lerner said Israel has already mobilised 20,000 reservists for a possible ground operation into Gaza, but for the time being Israel remained focused on maximising its air campaign. A ground invasion could lead to heavy civilian casualties on the Palestinian side while putting Israeli ground forces in danger. Neither side is showing any sign of halting their heaviest fighting since an eight-day battle in late 2012. Israel says Hamas must cease rocket fire from Gaza for it to consider a truce.

Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens. The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu