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In Gaza, quiet pierced by air strikes, ambulance sirens
by Staff Writers
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Nov 15, 2012

Gaza toll hits 19 as rockets kill 3 Israelis
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - The death toll in more than 24 hours of Israeli air strikes on Gaza rose to 19 late Thursday, as Palestinian militants fired more than 380 rockets at Israel, killing three people.

More than 160 Gazans have also been injured in the relentless Israeli campaign of air strikes, which continued into Thursday evening with a series of raids near midnight on Beit Hanun in the north of the Strip and in northern Gaza City.

"Three citizens were martyred and 12 injured in an air strike in Beit Hanun," emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Salmiya told.

Eyewitnesses said the strike hit a house, and that two brothers were among the dead.

Earlier Thursday, a 10-month-old girl was declared dead after succumbing to wounds she sustained during an Israeli strike in Gaza City's Zeitun neighbourhood.

Additional strikes throughout the day claimed the lives of a 60-year-old man in Beit Lahiya and a child who died after being wounded in a raid in Khan Yunis.

Since Israel's targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari on Wednesday afternoon, Gaza rockets have killed three Israelis and injured 19, three of them soldiers, police and medics said.

Thursday's rocket strike on the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi hit a house, killing two men and a woman, police said.

A spokeswoman said the Israeli military had hit "around 225 targets" in Gaza since it launched its assault with the killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari and his bodyguard in an air strike on Gaza City on Wednesday.

Over the same period, 274 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, while 112 have been intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system, the military said.

The usual cacophony of Gaza's streets has been replaced by an eery quiet, broken only by the whoosh of rockets, the crash of air strikes and screeching ambulances taking the wounded to hospital.

Since an Israeli air strike killed a top Hamas commander in Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon, marking the start of a massive aerial bombing campaign, the city's residents have largely taken refuge at home.

Streets that are normally clogged by trucks and cars, competing for space and raising clouds of dust and noise, are virtually empty.

And with schools throughout Gaza closed, the usual crowds of undersized children struggling with oversized backpacks are nowhere to be seen.

Instead, the only crowds are those gathered in mosques mourning the dead, or queuing outside bakeries to stock up on bread.

"I circled around for two hours, looking for a place with the shortest line," said Momen Ahmed, 24, standing outside the Abu Dayya bakery with his friends.

"To be honest, there's no food crisis, and the interior ministry went on television to say there's more than enough food, that we have plenty. But we think it's better not to take the chance."

The confrontation also sparked fears of a fuel crisis, with residents reporting petrol shortages throughout the city.

As Momen waits, the crashing boom of a new air strike fills the air, followed shortly afterwards by the higher-pitched swoosh that indicates outgoing rocket fire.

A few hundreds metres (yards) away is Gaza's Shifa hospital, where dozens of young men mill around, watching wide-eyed as ambulances and cars deliver the wounded.

Shortly after a round of strikes in the eastern Zeitun neighbourhood, the injured begin to arrive.

First is a man in a blue tracksuit, lying crumpled and barefoot on a stretcher as he screams and weeps. The triage group, one of three working at the hospital front, examines him in vain for injuries.

"It's psychological. He's simply completely traumatised," says Ihab Shirir, an orthopaedic specialist.

Shortly afterwards, eight-year-old Sujud Nasser is brought in by her uncle.

Her pink flip-flops, a plastic flower atop each foot, are splattered with blood and she looks out from under a head bandage at the doctor assessing her injuries.

"What happened, sweetheart, where does it hurt?" he asks.

She hesitates, trembling as she responds.

"There was a strike, the house collapsed, the wall. The stone fell on me and hit my head," she says, pointing to the bandage, which covers a deep wound across her forehead.

The doctors assess the patients as quickly as possible, trying to clear the few beds in the triage room before the next wave arrives.

An ambulance brings in a woman in niqab, Lubna Dalul, who was also caught beneath the wall of her home after the air strike.

She is six months pregnant and terrified about whether her baby has been hurt. Behind her is another child, a six-year-old who is sobbing uncontrollably.

Her uncle raises the hem of her trousers to show where shrapnel carved a bloody gash diagonally along her ankle and foot.

Dr Shirir is pragmatic about the flow of wounded, saying it is nothing like the scenes he witnessed during Israel's massive 22-day Cast Lead Operation over New Year 2009 which claimed the lives of 1,400 Palestinians, half of them civilians and 13 Israelis, 10 of them soldiers.

"The situation now is bad, but so far, it's not as bad as Cast Lead," he says. "But we fear, we believe, that the worst is yet to come."

Israel's Barak okays call-up of 30,000 reservists
Jerusalem (AFP) Nov 15, 2012 - Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday approved the call-up of 30,000 reserve soldiers, who can be called into action by the military at any point, the army's official spokesman said.

The announcement came as Israel pressed a massive air campaign against Gaza militants which threatened to expand into a ground operation after a rocket struck the sea just off the coast of Tel Aviv and a second landed just south of the sprawling coastal city.

"We are in the process of expanding the campaign," Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai told Channel 2 television as the army said militants had fired more than 380 rockets across the border.

"The defence minister approved a few minutes ago, based on the army's request, the recruitment of another 30,000 soldiers. We will determine how many of them will be called in," he said.

"This means that all options are on the table," he said.

His remarks came as the military said 274 rockets had hit the Jewish state in the 28 hours since an Israeli strike killed a top Hamas commander, and that another 112 had been intercepted in mid-flight by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.

"I can assume that tonight will be very not quiet in the Gaza Strip," Mordechai said.

Barak said the rocket fire on the central Gush Dan region was "an escalation" which would cost Gaza's militant groups dearly.

"The firing towards Gush Dan and the extent of the general (rocket) fire toward Israel is an escalation, and this escalation will have a price that the other side will have to pay," he said in a statement.

Senior cabinet minister Moshe Yaalon also warned that Israel was considering a ground operation in order to stamp out rocket fire.

"We are preparing all the military options, including the possibility that forces will be ready to enter Gaza in the event that the firing doesn't stop," he wrote in a series of postings on his official Twitter account.

"Whoever continues attacking us, his blood will be on his own head. From our perspective the operation won't stop and the army has prepared all the options in order to hit them," he said.

"The only way to convince the other side to stop the aggression is to make them pay a heavy price which will convince them to halt their fire."


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Three Israelis, 3 militants killed as Gaza violence rages
Gaza City, Palestinian Territories (AFP) Nov 15, 2012
Warplanes pounded Gaza for a second day Thursday as three Israelis and three Palestinians were killed in fierce fighting which began with Israel's targeted killing of a top Hamas chief. Israel's harshest assault on the Palestinian territory in four years, which comes as the Jewish state heads towards general elections, prompted an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council amid growing int ... read more

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