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Israel strikes mosque as death toll tops 120

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Israeli airstrikes targeting Hamas in Gaza hit a mosque and a center for the disabled where two women were killed Saturday, raising the Palestinian death toll from the offensive to more than 120, Palestinian officials said.

The Israeli military said the mosque concealed rockets like those used in the barrage of nearly 700 fired by Gaza militants at Israel over the five-day offensive, while saying it was investigating claims about the other sites hit. However, the strikes in the densely populated Gaza Strip show the challenge facing Israel as it considers a ground operation in the region and potential further dangers posed to civilians.

While there have been no fatalities in Israel from the continued rocket fire, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said overnight Israeli strikes raised the death toll there to over 120, with more than 920 wounded.

Death Toll From Israeli Airstrikes Tops 120

Hamas militants have been hit hard. Though the exact breakdown of casualties remains unclear, dozens of the dead also have been civilians.

The offensive showed no signs of slowing down Saturday as Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon said his country should ready itself for several more days of fighting.

"We have accumulated achievements as far as the price Hamas is paying and we are continuing to destroy significant targets of it and other terror organizations," Yaalon said after a meeting with top security officials. "We will continue to punish it until quiet and security returns to southern Israel and the rest of the country."

Hamas said Israel hit a pair of mosques in its offensive. The competing claims could not be immediately reconciled, though Hamas said it hoped the mosque attack would galvanize support in the Muslim world.

"The bombing of two mosques in Gaza overnight shows how barbaric this enemy is and how much is it hostile to Islam," said Husam Badran, a Hamas spokesman in Doha, Qatar. "This terrorism gives us the right to broaden our response to deter this occupier."

The Israeli military released an aerial photo of the mosque it said it hit, saying Hamas hid rockets in it right next to another religious site and civilian homes. It said Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Gaza militant groups use this tactic of abusing religious sites to conceal weapons and establish underground tunnel networks, deliberately endangering its own civilians.

"Hamas terrorists systematically exploit and choose to put Palestinians in Gaza in harm's way and continue to locate their positions among civilian areas and mosques, proving once more their disregard for human life and holy sites," said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli military spokesman.

Israel's military says it has struck more than 1,100 targets, including rocket launchers, command centers and weapon manufacturing and storage facilities. However, Gaza officials said the strikes also hit affiliated charities and banks, as well as the home for the disabled and the mosques.

Gaza militants' barrage of rockets appeared to tail off somewhat Saturday morning before a new round resumed that afternoon. The "Iron Dome," a U.S.-funded, Israel-developed rocket defense system, has intercepted more than 130 incoming rockets, preventing any Israeli fatalities so far. A handful of Israelis have been wounded by rockets that slipped through.

The most serious strike was from a rocket that struck a gas station Friday in the southern city of Ashdod. A house in Beersheba suffered a direct hit though the family living there was not home.

As a precaution, the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv relocated its personnel assigned to Beersheba. However, militant rockets have reached further into Israel than ever before, with air raid sirens sounding even in the northern city of Haifa, 100 miles (160 kilometers) away.

The frequent rocket fire has disrupted daily life in Israel, particularly in southern communities that have absorbed the brunt of the rocket fire. Israelis mostly have stayed close to home. Television channels air non-stop coverage of the violence and radio broadcasts are interrupted live with every air raid siren warning of incoming rockets.

The offensive is the heaviest fighting since a similar eight-day campaign in November 2012 to stop Gaza rocket fire. The outbreak of violence follows the kidnappings and killings of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, and the kidnapping and killing of a Palestinian teenager in an apparent revenge attack.

Israel has pummeled Gaza at twice the rate of the 2012 operation and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to press on with the campaign until there is a complete halt to rocket attacks from the seaside Palestinian territory. Israel has massed thousands of troops along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion, with soldiers atop vehicles mobilized and ready to move into Gaza if the order arrives.

After days of little criticism, Israel has begun coming under more international pressure as Palestinian casualties have grown. The United States and European leaders have stressed Israel's right to defend itself. But the United Nations has expressed its concern over civilian deaths in Gaza and anti-Israel protests have taken place in Europe. In the West Bank, Hamas supporters clashed with Israeli troops over the Gaza offensive.

A senior Arab league official said Arab foreign ministers will hold an emergency meeting in Cairo on Monday to discuss the continued Israeli offensive and measures to urge the international community to pressure Israel.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas requested the meeting, which was approved by several Arab foreign ministers in coordination with the Arab League. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief journalists.

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Joyce July 12 2014 at 9:04 AM

I lived in the Middle East for awhile and saw things firsthand. Hamas should be blown back to their birthplace of hell where they belong. Those satanic soulless liars ,murderers!! They hide behind the skirts of the women and plant the weapons in hospitals and kindergartens JUST TO HAVE THEIR OWN TARGETED AND THEN CRY FOUL. They should be pummeled into the ground and believe me the whole world
Will benefit from this. They would do the same to us if they could. All if them are affiliated with one another (al quaida , etc). Remember 9/11 folks??????

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12 replies
sirwilhelm July 12 2014 at 8:27 AM

There is no longer anything Hamas can say to justify their attacks, after admitting they targeted an Isreli nuclear power plant. The damage done by the tsunami damaged Fukishima nuclear power plant, illustrates the scale of the catastrophe that could have been caused if the Israeli plant was damaged. All the missles Hamas fires, are targeted on civilians. The hypocripsy of Islam, knows no bounds, and their propagandist statements, reflect that.

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15 replies
mrgem July 12 2014 at 9:05 AM

Bias on the part of the press is amazing, instead of "Hamas Continues Rocket Attacks and Israel Responds," the Headline link to this story reads "Israel Continues Bombings -- No Ceasefire in Sight." No one wants to blow up religious sights. No one wants innocents killed. But the way I see it, Israel has no choice when provoked.

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20 replies
hwlndrbrt July 12 2014 at 8:50 AM

Again: Stand firm Israel. Stay in this for the long haul. Long Live Israel! God IS with you.

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6 replies
gliverson July 12 2014 at 8:54 AM

Could you guys even imagine living as the Israelis have had to do for decades now? Under the constant threat of Moslem attack! Imagine Islam took over Mexico and was lobbing rockets into Texas, Arizona and NM..... what would we do? We would pound the killers into the ground..... and so should Israel!

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12 replies
hendrickspi July 12 2014 at 9:00 AM

Terrorist groups like Hamas only understand use of force and strength. Israel needs to destroy Hamas and their store of weapons once and for all and put an end to these repeated attacks.

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2 replies
hokanut hendrickspi July 12 2014 at 11:46 AM

nagy22, negotiate? Hamas is telling civillians to NOT take shelter when Israel sends warnings that the rocket launchers in their neighborhoods are about to be destroyed. How do you "negotiate" with that kind of insanity?

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mrscdel hendrickspi July 12 2014 at 1:09 PM

there will never be a way humanity can stop them. They are brainwashed barbarians on a jihad quest to control the world and rid it of every human NOT muslim. They will kill men women and children....and themselves to accomplish this. They will target the communication systems of the internnet ..then power ...then nuclear plants. Then water...and after destroying the land air and water they too need will die thinking they have done so in to glorify their god...but have in fact only served Hell...and THAT is the real war being waged.

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gnobie01 July 12 2014 at 9:01 AM


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4 replies
whelaniii July 12 2014 at 9:14 AM

If Israel has to continue to fear rocket attacks every couple of years,then it is time for Israel to end it by wiping out Gasa. For the people in Gasa to allow hamas to continue firing rockets at Israel and not expect to get attack by Israel, then they must be real stupid

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3 replies
dbn3 July 12 2014 at 8:57 AM

If Hamas leaders were smart they would just send their kids to the Texas border so our prez could welcome them with open arms and open checkbook.

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21 replies
esqlevine July 12 2014 at 9:02 AM

Terrorists hide amongst civilians and inside religious institutions. Thus they become military targets. Meanwhile, not a word on this board about ISIS beheading fellow Muslims, destroying mosques, and promising to destroy Mecca.

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1 reply
bubbyejm esqlevine July 12 2014 at 9:46 AM

makes one "wonder" about the negativity towards Israel in light of your news
ps - there was a video of isis smashing tombs in iraq - yet no outrage!!!!!!

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1 reply
racjaa bubbyejm July 12 2014 at 12:41 PM

I guess Arabs get upset only when someone else destroys their holy places. When they do it, well its ok because it is in the name of jihad. IT is this thinking that keeps arabs in the last century.

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