Israeli prime minister vows to 'significantly expand' action in Gaza
Eighty people reported killed since hostilities began six days ago
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to "significantly expand" its operation against Palestinians fighters in the Gaza Strip. Fatalities continue to mount, with at least eight people killed in the first six days of the ongoing conflict. Freshly re-elected U.S. President Barack Obama added cautious words, saying that while Israel had a right to defend itself; it would be "preferable" to avoid an Israeli ground invasion.
Palestinian Yoused Abu Khoussa carries the body of his one and a half year-old son Iyad, during his funeral in Bureij Refugee Camp, central Gaza Strip. The ongoing hostilities have claimed many civilian lives.
"The operation in the Gaza Strip is continuing, and we are preparing to expand it," Netanyahu said at his weekly cabinet meeting. "We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organizations."
Israeli troops have massed along the Gaza border. There are widespread fears that Israel is poised to expand its aerial bombing campaign into a ground operation.
In Gaza, Ashraf al-Kidra, spokesperson of the health ministry says that civilians accounted for half of the Palestinian death toll and that more than 600 other Palestinians have been wounded.
Medical sources in Gaza said at least three children, including an 18-month-old infant and two women were killed in an air raid east of Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza.
In addition, an air raid in the early morning hours in Gaza City targeted a building housing the offices of local Arab media. Several journalists from al-Quds television, a station Israel sees as a mouthpiece of Hamas, the Palestinian group which rules the Gaza Strip.
"At least six journalists were wounded, with minor and moderate injuries, when Israeli warplanes hit the Al-Quds TV office in the Showa and Housari building in the Rimal neighborhood of Gaza City," Ashraf al-Qudra, health ministry spokesman told reporters.
In addition, Russian television station RT said its office was destroyed, adding that none of its staff were injured.
The Israeli military said it had targeted "two Hamas operational communication sites" and had only targeted communication devices located on the roof to "minimize the damage to non-involved persons."
Gaza has been under attack since Wednesday of last week, when Israel launched a military offensive with the declared goal of deterring fighters in the Palestinian enclave from launching rockets into its territory.
More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three people and injuring dozens.
Israel says it will keep schools in its south shut as a precaution to avoid casualties from rocket attacks.
The military said Israeli aircraft had targeted dozens of underground rocket launchers overnight, "causing severe damage to the rocket launching capabilities of Hamas and other terror organizations".
While Netanyahu has a lot of support for a ground operation, especially in the southern parts of the country, a ground invasion would cost Israel much international sympathy and support, according to William Hague, UK foreign secretary.
Hague says it will be much more difficult to limit civilian casualties in a ground assault and it would threaten to prolong the conflict.
"A ground invasion is much more difficult for the international community to sympathize with or support - including the United Kingdom," he said.
Hague says that the United Kingdom would like to see an agreed ceasefire, with an end to the rocket attacks being an essential component of any peace deal.
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM
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Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, defense, Gaza Strip, fatalities
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