GAZA CITY – Israel continued its deadly attacks on the Gaza Strip on Sunday, November 18, killing more than 20 people, including several children, amid preparations for a ground invasion of the seaside Palestinian enclave.
“The Israeli military is prepared to significantly expand the operation,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a cabinet meeting.Israeli air planes pounded Gaza for the fifth day on Sunday, killing at least 21 Palestinians, including several children.
Health officials said among those killed were at least nine children and four women.
"The death toll has risen to 52 after two people were killed in an attack on Shati camp -- a man and a girl," health ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
Among those killed on Sunday was a nine-year girl, who was killed in an Israeli air strike in Jabaliya refugee camp in northern Gaza.
Nine members of one Palestinian family were killed in the Israeli attacks, including a 3-year-old girl and a 5-year-old boy, who were killed in an Israeli air strike on their three-story home in the town of Beit Lahiya.Israel unleashed intensive air strikes on Gaza on Wednesday, killing the military commander of the ruling Hamas.
Palestinian officials said 66 Palestinians, most of them civilians, including 16 children, have been killed in the Israeli assault.
Israeli attacks also targeted two Gaza City media buildings were hit, witnesses said.
Eight journalists were wounded and facilities belonging to Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV as well as Britain's Sky News were damaged.
An employee of Beirut-based al Quds television station lost his leg in the attack, local medics said.
"We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water,” Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said, as quoted by Yeshiva World News.
Responding to Israeli attacks, Palestinian resistance fighters stepped up rocket firing into Israel. Three Israelis were killed in a rocket attack earlier this week.
Israel has assembled thousands of troops in preparation for a ground operation into Gaza, likely by the end of the week.
The Israeli offensive in Gaza has so far drawn Western support for what US and European leaders have called its right to self-defense, but there was also a growing number of appeals from them to seek an end to the hostilities.
Israel killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and injured thousands in a three-week offensive in Gaza in 2008.
The Israeli assault comes amid Egyptian efforts to broker a truce between Israel and Palestinian resistance groups.
"There are discussions about the ways to bring a cease-fire soon, but there are no guarantees," Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi told a press conference on Saturday.
He said that Cairo was working with Turkey, Arab countries, the US, Russia and western European countries to halt the bloodshed.
"There are some indications that there could be a ceasefire soon," he said. But there are "no guarantees."
Hamas political chief Khalid Meshaal held talks with the Egyptian president to discuss a possible truce in Gaza.
Media reports said that Hamas demanded a lifting of the years-long Israeli blockade on Gaza and a halt of the Israeli policy of targeted killings in exchange for halting the rocket fire.
A Palestinian official told Reuters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying "there is hope", but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh also spoke by phone Sunday with the Egyptian leader, according to Haniyeh's office.
Haniyeh told Morsi he supports such efforts, provided Hamas receives "guarantees that will prevent any future aggression" by Israel, his office said in a statement.Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.
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