Israel hits key Hamas targets in Gaza offensive

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Smoke and debris rise after an Israeli strike on the Gaza Strip seen from the Israeli side of the Israel Gaza Border, Wednesday, July 9, 2014. AP
More than two dozen people were killed as Israel stepped up its offensive against the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in an attempt to stop Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli targets.
Palestinian officials said at least 25 people were killed in the attacks, which targeted several cities across Gaza Tuesday and Wednesday. The French news agency AFP added that more than 150 people are believed to have been wounded in the assaults.
Overnight, the Israeli military said it attacked 118 concealed rocket-launching sites, weapons storage facilities, 10 tunnels and 10 command and control positions.
The military has targeted more than 400 sites since the launch of "Operation Protective Edge" in the early hours of Tuesday.
Israel has hinted that its effort could expand to include ground attacks.
U.S. President Barack Obama said in a column published in Germany Wednesday that "everyone involved" should act in a sensible and measured way, rather than seek revenge or retaliation. 
His words were published in the German newspaper Die Zeit. He reiterated U.S. support for a two-state solution and added that "both sides must be prepared to accept risks for peace."
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas made a televised statement late Tuesday in which he called on international bodies such as the Mideast Quartet and the United Nations Security Council to "take responsibility to guarantee the safety" of the Palestinian people.
He asked Palestinians to be "united and patient" and promised the government would do its best to fulfill their needs.
Israel\’s defense chief, Moshe Ya\’alon, said Tuesday the Jewish state is prepared for a campaign against Hamas militants in Gaza, "which will not end within days." Israel\’s security Cabinet authorized the military to call up 40,000 reservists in addition to the 1,500 already mobilized.
An Israeli military spokesman said militants in Gaza have dozens of long-range rockets. One of them, an M-302 projectile, hit the coastal city of Hadera, some 97 kilometers (60 miles) north of the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, landing near a house but causing no injuries, the military said.
Since midnight (2100 GMT), at least seven rockets struck Israel, and another eight were shot down by Iron Dome, two of them over the Tel Aviv area, an army spokeswoman said.
Throughout Tuesday, 117 rockets struck Israel, with 45 of them targeting major cities in the center, among them Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The army confirmed the Hadera strike was the furthest that a rocket fire from Gaza had ever reached.
Another 45 missiles were shot down by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.
Israel has reported no casualties in the rocket barrages.
The rocket salvoes from Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip have sent people racing for bomb shelters, but businesses remained open in Israel, traffic flowed and the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange seemed to be unfazed, with shares opening higher.
In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest condemned the Hamas rocket attacks Tuesday and said Israel has the right to defend itself.
"Let me start by saying that we strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire into Israel and the deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist organizations in Gaza.  No country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians, and we support Israel\’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks,” said Earnest.
Israeli tanks and other armored vehicles were seen massing near the Gaza border, and a military spokesman said the army was recruiting reserve troops for a potential ground mission.
Israeli President Shimon Peres said his country has no choice but to respond to the Hamas rockets fired into southern Israel.
The kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers and a Palestinian youth have helped to further escalate tensions in the past week. Both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas have condemned the acts and vowed to punish those responsible.
Israeli investigators said Monday that three of six Jewish suspects accused of killing 16-year-old Mohammed Abu Khdeir have confessed to the crime and re-enacted it for authorities. It is believed the Palestinian was killed as revenge for the deaths of the Israeli teens.
Israel blames Hamas for the killing of the Israeli youths. Hamas has neither confirmed nor denied responsibility for the Israeli youths\’ deaths.
Source: VOA and agencies

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