Israel Widens Airstrike Assault in Gaza as Egypt Seeks for Truce

NEW YORK | Sunday, November 18th, 2012 2:30am EDT

Israel went on airstriking in Gaza even as diplomatic efforts to broker a cease-fire appeared to be gaining steam.

Israel Widens Airstrike Assault in Gaza as Egypt Seeks for Truce 01

In the result of new attacks on Saturday, the headquarters of Hamas’ prime minister were ruined. Israel blasted a sprawling network of smuggling tunnels in the southern Gaza Strip, thus broadening a blistering four-day-old offensive against the Islamic militant group. Photo: Mundo33/Flickr

According to Hamas officials, a building used by Hamas for broadcasts was targeted and three people were injured.

The victims were from Al Quds TV, a Lebanon-based television channel. The same building was also used by foreign news outlets including Germany’s ARD, Kuwait TV and the Italian RAI and others.

Israeli military officials said they are satisfied with their progress on Nov. 17, claiming they have inflicted heavy damage to the Egypt region.

“Most of their capabilities have been destroyed,” Maj. Gen. Tal Russo, Israel’s southern commander, told reporters. Asked whether Israel is ready to send ground troops into Gaza, he said: “Absolutely.”

“Most of their weapons are stored in civilian’s homes, they launch rockets from residential areas. We do not want to hit civilians in Gaza but we do want to hit the hornets’ nest of terror in Gaza,” he added.

“As of now we have struck more than 1,000 targets, so Hamas should do the math over whether it is worth or not to cease fire,” said Israeli Vice Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon.

“If there is quiet in the south and no rockets and missiles are fired at Israel’s citizens, nor terrorist attacks engineered from the Gaza Strip, we will not attack,” he wrote on Twitter.

Fifty Palestinians, half of which were civilians, including 14 children, have been killed since the Israeli assault began, Palestinian officials said. More than 500 rockets fired from Gaza have hit Israel, killing three civilians.

In neighboring Egypt, President Mohammed Morsi hosted leaders from Hamas and two key allies, Qatar and Turkey, to seek a way to end the fighting, The Huffington Post reports.

“There are discussions about the ways to bring a cease-fire soon, but there are no guarantees until now,” Morsi said at a news conference.

He also revealed that he was working with Turkey, Arab countries, the U.S., Russia and western European countries to halt the fighting.

Mursi said as his security deputies tried to broker a truce with Hamas, but “there are some indications that there is a possibility of a ceasefire soon, but we do not yet have firm guarantees”.

As Reuters writes, Egypt has mediated previous ceasefire deals between Israel and Hamas, the latest of which unraveled with recent violence.

A Palestinian official told reporters the truce discussions would continue in Cairo on Sunday, saying “there is hope, but that it was too early to say whether the efforts would succeed.”

At a Gaza news conference, Hamas military spokesman Abu Ubaida voiced defiance: “This round of confrontation will not be the last against the Zionist enemy and it is only the beginning.”

The White House announced that President Obama was in touch with the Egyptian and Turkish leaders and America has solidly backed Israel so far.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said that the White House believes Israel “has the right to defend itself” against attack and that the Israelis will make their own decisions about their “military tactics and operations.”

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