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Israel Masses Troops Near Gaza, Continues AttacksSalem-News.com
Israel's saturation air strikes peaked on Thursday, with a rate of one every five minutes.
(GAZA STRIP Oman Daily Observer) - Israeli tanks and troops massed outside Gaza and the military said yesterday it was calling up 16,000 reservists, signs of a possible imminent attack on the Palestinian enclave after 48 hours of air strikes that left at least 22 Palestinians dead.
Israel's warplanes, drones and helicopters appeared to shift focus from suspected rocket sites to northern Gaza where their bombs created incursion corridors.
The mobilisation was anything but secret and details put on social media by the Israeli military appeared to be a clear sign that 'punishment' is imminent.
The combined death toll in the Israel-Gaza violence has risen to 25, with the deaths of two more Palestinians, an official in Gaza said yesterday.
Ashraf al-Qedra, spokesman for the Hamas-run Health Ministry, said the latest fatalities were two Hamas men. One was killed in an Israeli airstrike in southern Gaza and the other in an airstrike in the north, he said.
Some 22 Palestinians —- eight of them civilians — have been killed in the airstrikes on Gaza. Three Israelis were killed when a Hamas rocket slammed into a building.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak on Thursday approved the call-up of 30,000 reserve soldiers, who can be drafted into action by the military at any point, the army's official spokesman said.
The move came as Israel pressed a relentless air campaign against Gaza activists which looked increasingly likely to expand into a ground operation after a rocket struck the sea just off the coast of Tel Aviv and a second landed to the south of the sprawling coastal city.
Though at least 340 of the missiles have been fired since Wednesday's flare-up, the Israelis say they have made strategic gains by destroying, on the ground, around 20 Fajr rockets with 75 km ranges - capable of hitting deep inside the Jewish state.
"They (Palestinians) may have a few left, but it is no longer the menace that it was," said one security official, even as Hamas and its allies managed to fire rockets at Tel Aviv and Jerusalem yesterday, causing no damage or casualties.
Israel's saturation air strikes - which peaked on Thursday, with a rate of one every five minutes, according to the chief military spokesman - have also razed a large number of residences and establishments.
Meanwhile, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's solidarity visit to Gaza yesterday quickly brought him face-to-face with the reality of Israel's assault on the Palestinian territory.
Hisham Qandil, travelling with a delegation of ministers and presidential aides, crossed the border from Egypt into the southern Gaza town of Rafah after a night of incessant Israeli bombardment.
He was greeted by a delegation from the government that escorted him on the drive north to Gaza City where he emerged from his car to cheers, surrounded by Egyptian bodyguards in olive green flak jackets.
Assembled at government headquarters and waiting to greet him were rows of Hamas members, led by prime minister Ismail Haniya.
It was the first time many of them had been seen in public in Gaza since Israel's Wednesday afternoon targeted killing of a senior Hamas commander drove much of the group's leadership underground.
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