Twenty-three Palestinians have been killed and 130 injured in a massive Israeli air and naval assault against the besieged Gaza Strip Tuesday, bombing dozens of targets, including homes.
Five children are among those killed in the relentless bombing campaign that has continued for over 24 hours.
“The casualty toll from the [Israeli] aggression has reached 23 dead and 130 injured,” health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qudra wrote on Twitter.
The casualties are “mostly children, women and the elderly,” he added.
Six members of the Hamad family were killed in a single air strike on their home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun, including two women and two children, Qudra wrote.
In the deadliest of the attacks, eight people were killed when Israel bombed the Kaware family home in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, Qudra announced, writing on Twitter that three children aged eight, 13 and 14 were among the dead. Another 25 people were injured in that bombing.
Witnesses told AFP a drone launched a warning flare, prompting relatives and neighbors to gather at the house as a human shield, but shortly afterwards an F-16 fired a missile which leveled the building.
That attack came after four bodies had arrived to Shifa Hospital after Israel bombed a car transporting them in Gaza City, Qudra said.
Israel claims its offensive is meant to end Palestinian rocket fire into Israeli occupied territories.
The United States and European Union both condemned the Palestinians for firing rockets in separate statements Tuesday. Neither have come out against Israel’s assault on Palestinian homes.
The Israeli military said it targeted about 50 sites in aerial and naval assaults by morning. Palestinian officials said more than 30 of them were bombed in little more than an hour before dawn, including two homes in southern Gaza, one of which was identified by a neighbor as belonging to a Hamas member.
The occupation forces have bombed dozens more since then.
Gaza medics said seven children and three women were among 22 people wounded in the overnight strikes, with more raids during the morning. Two of the wounded were in serious condition.
The Israeli army said the air force and the navy had struck around 50 “terror sites” overnight.
It also destroyed the homes of four families allegedly belonging to members of Hamas’s military wing, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, which Israel blamed for rocket fire.
The Palestinian Interior Ministry said a family in one of the targeted homes in Khan Younis had received a telephone call from an Israeli intelligence officer asking them to leave the house because it would be bombed, and the family evacuated in time.
The Palestinian Health Ministry said nine neighbors were wounded by debris from that strike.
Meanwhile, the military was preparing all options to stamp out rocket fire from Gaza, including a ground assault, a senior Israeli official told AFP.
“The army is preparing for all possible scenarios, including an invasion or a ground operation,” he said.
Military spokesman General Moti Almoz also confirmed preparations for a possible ground offensive.
“We have been instructed by the political echelon to hit Hamas hard,” he told army radio, saying the campaign against Hamas would happen “in stages.”
“All options are on the table; all these steps are being considered. Two brigades, which are currently stationed around the Gaza Strip, are prepared and ready, and in the coming days, more will arrive,” he said.
An army statement said the government authorised the callup of 40,000 reservists.
Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon warned it was likely to be a protracted campaign.
“We are preparing for a campaign against Hamas, which will not end in just a few days,” he said in a statement which defined the aim as being “to exact a very heavy price from Hamas.”
Hamas threatened an “earthquake” in response to Israel’s attacks.
In a statement, the group denounced Israel’s bombing of houses as “exceeding all red lines” and threatened to shoot rockets at longer distances. “We will respond by broadening the range of our targets,” the fighters said.
Lerner said Gaza fighters had fired more than 80 rockets at Israeli targets on Monday.
(Reuters, AFP, Al-Akhbar)