- Title: GAZA: Five siblings killed as Israel warplanes conduct new raids on Gaza
- Date: 29th December 2008
- Summary: VIEW OF AMBULANCE DRIVING AWAY
- Embargoed: 13th January 2009 11:11
- Topics: War / Fighting
- Reuters ID: LVABLHQQEA8A5XHKNP7RSWNOUTOH
- Aspect Ratio: 4:3
- Story Text: Israeli warplanes pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip for a third consecutive day on Monday (December 29) and prepared for a possible invasion after killing 307 Palestinians in the air raids.
Israel, which stepped up the air strikes after dark on Sunday, said it launched the campaign on Saturday (December 27) in response to almost daily rocket and mortar fire that intensified after the Islamist Hamas group ended a six-month ceasefire a week ago.
Broadening their targets to include the Hamas government, warplanes on Monday bombed Gaza's Interior Ministry, Palestinian sources said. There was no immediate word of casualties.
In Jabaliya, an airstrike hit a residential building and killed five children of the same family.
Survivor Iman Balouchi said "Seven of us where sleeping when all of a sudden all the walls came tumbling on us. They were all screaming. I told them all to call for martyrdom because we are all going to die tonight."
Also Sunday night, Israeli warplanes bombed the Islamic University in the Gaza Strip, a significant Hamas cultural symbol, in the latest of a series of aerial attacks in the coastal territory, the Islamist group said.
An Israeli army spokeswoman had no immediate comment on the strike.
Witnesses said a series of explosions rocked the Gaza city campus.
Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, said the military action would go on until the population in southern Israel "no longer live in terror and in fear of constant rocket barrages".
Israeli tanks were deployed on Gaza's edge, poised to enter the densely populated coastal enclave of 1.5 million Palestinians. Olmert's cabinet approved a call-up of 6,500 reservists, a government official said.
Hamas remained defiant and the group's spokesman Fawzi Barhoum urged Palestinian groups to use "all available means, including martyrdom operations" -- a reference to suicide bombings in Israel.
The Israeli offensive enraged Arabs across the Middle East, where protesters burned Israeli and U.S. flags to press for a stronger response from their leaders to the attack on Gaza.
Israel, whose politicians have been under pressure to act over the rocket and mortar attacks ahead of a Feb. 10 election, was feeling little international pressure to halt its offensive, said an Israeli official, who declined to be named.
Hamas said 180 of its members had been killed and that the rest of the more than 300 dead included civilians, among them 16 women and some children.
Livni said Israel was targeting militants but "unfortunately in a war ... sometimes also civilians pay the price".
The International Red Cross said hospitals in the Gaza Strip were overwhelmed and unable to cope with the casualties.
Keeping up pressure on Hamas after bombing runs that turned Saturday into one of the bloodiest days for Palestinians in 60 years of conflict, Israeli aircraft flattened the group's main security compound in Gaza, killing at least four security men.
Israel said during the first two days of the offensive Palestinian militants fired about 150 rockets and mortar bombs at the Jewish state. An Israeli man was killed on Saturday.
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