Israel military strike in Gaza enters 2nd day
GAZA CITY -- Israeli aircraft, tanks and naval gunboats pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip today and rocket salvos thudded into southern Israel, as terrified residents on both sides of the frontier holed up at home in anticipation of heavy fighting on the second day of Israel's offensive against Islamic militants.
The operation, launched in response to days of rocket fire from the Palestinian territory, kicked off with the assassination of Hamas' top military chief and deepened the instability gripping the Mideast. Egypt recalled its ambassador yesterday in response to the Israeli strike.
Just days earlier, Israel was drawn into Syria's civil war for the first time, firing missiles into its northern neighbor for the first time in four decades after stray mortar fire landed in Israeli-occupied Syrian territory.
Waves of airstrikes on more than 100 militant targets followed the assassination of Hamas' Ahmed Jabari. The air attacks continued into the early hours today, targeting Hamas' training facilities and rocket launchers in Israel's most intense attack on the territory in four years. Hamas announced a state of emergency in Gaza.
Ten Palestinians, including two young children and seven militants, were killed on the operation's first day, and more than 93 were wounded. Early today, Israel targeted a motorcycle carrying a rocket squad, killing one militant and wounding two, a Palestinian health official said. The Israeli military had no immediate confirmation.
Dozens of rockets bombarded southern Israel, prompting Israel to declare a state of emergency there.
Israel said the airstrikes yesterday were the beginning of a broader operation against the Islamic militants and said a ground operation was a strong possibility in the coming days if Hamas didn't take steps to rein in the rocket fire. The Israeli army has called up reserves.
Jabari, the Hamas military chief, had long topped Israel's most-wanted list, blamed for masterminding a string of deadly attacks that included a cross-border kidnapping of an Israeli soldier in 2006. He also was believed to be a key player in Hamas' takeover of Gaza in 2007.
The United States supports "Israel's right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties," said the State Department's Mark Toner. President Barack Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, the White House said.
Last night, the UN Security Council met behind closed doors after the Palestinians asked the council to act to halt Israel's military operation in Gaza.