Friday, December 15, 2017
News Roundup

Israel broadens attacks amid calls for cease-fire

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel on Saturday widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and announced it would hit northern Gaza "with great force" to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel. More than 150 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.

One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, on Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza's police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council called unanimously for a cease-fire, while Britain's foreign minister said he will discuss cease-fire efforts with his American, French and German counterparts today.

So far, neither Israel nor Gaza's Hamas rulers have signaled willingness to stop.

Israel has carried out more than 1,200 airstrikes to try to diminish Hamas' ability to fire rockets at Israel, and a military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, said Saturday there would be more strikes, especially in northern Gaza near the Israeli border.

"We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area," he said. Late Saturday, the military said it was ordering Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate "for their own safety."

Gaza's Interior Ministry urged residents in the area to ignore Israel's warnings and to stay in their homes, saying the announcement was Israeli "psychological warfare" and an attempt to create confusion.

Shortly after the Israeli announcement, an Israeli warplane struck the home of the Gaza police chief, Taysir al-Batsh. The attack also damaged a nearby mosque, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50, said Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra. He said that worshipers were leaving the mosque after evening prayers at the time of the strike and that some people are believed to be trapped under the rubble.

Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, fired nearly 700 rockets and mortar shells at Israel last week and said it wouldn't be the first to halt fire.

In a sign that the conflict might widen, Israel fired into Lebanon late Saturday in response to two rockets fired from there at northern Israel. There were no injuries or damage, but Israel fears militant groups in Lebanon may try to open a second front.

Israel has said it's acting in self-defense against rockets that have disrupted life across much of the country. It also accuses Hamas of using Gaza's civilians as human shields by firing rockets from there.

Critics said Israel's heavy bombardment of one of the most densely populated territories in the world is itself the main factor putting civilians at risk. Sarit Michaeli of the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem said that while using human shields violates international humanitarian law, "this does not give Israel the excuse to violate international humanitarian law as well."

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