Israel pummeled Gaza with air strikes on Monday and Palestinian militants launched rockets at Israeli cities despite a flurry of U.S. and regional diplomacy that has so far failed to halt more than a week of deadly fighting.
Israel’s missile attacks on the densely populated Palestinian enclave killed a top Islamic Jihad commander and left a crater in a seven-storey office building that Israel’s military said was used by Gaza’s Islamist rulers Hamas.
“The directive is to continue to strike at terror targets,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after a meeting with military chiefs. “We will continue to act as necessary to restore peace and security to all residents of Israel.”
The armed wing of Hamas promised more rockets in return: “The criminal Zionist enemy intensified its bombing of homes and residential apartments in the recent hours, and therefore, we warn the enemy that if it did not stop that immediately, we would resume rocketing Tel Aviv,” said spokesman Abu Ubaida.
Rocket barrages, some of them launched in response to the killing of Islamic Jihad’s Hussam Abu Harbeed, sent Israelis dashing for bomb shelters. A synagogue was hit in Ashkelon and an apartment building in Ashdod.
Gaza health officials put the Palestinian death toll since hostilities flared up last week at least 212, including 61 children and 36 women. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children.
The Israeli military said militants had fired about 3,350 rockets from Gaza, and that Israeli air and artillery strikes had killed least 130 Palestinian combatants.