Israel rules out truce with Hamas as Palestinian death toll nears 350
Israel rejected any truce with Hamas on Tuesday and said it was ready for "long weeks of action" on a fourth day of its air offensive in the Gaza Strip. As Israeli armoured vehicles and troops were massed along the border for a possible invasion, Israeli warplanes pressed on with strikes, killing 12 Palestinians, including a pair of sisters, 10 and 12, in attacks on Hamas targets. The Israeli navy also bombed targets in the Gaza Strip.
According to Reuters, medical sources put the total Palestinian death toll since Israel launched its offensive on Saturday at 347. A United Nations agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians.
The latest Israeli attacks came hours after rockets fired by Gazan gunners killed an Israeli soldier near the border with Gaza Strip and a 39 year old woman in the city of Ashdod.
On his part, Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said "there is no room for a ceasefire" with Hamas before the threat of rocket fire has been removed. "The Israeli army must not stop the operation before breaking the will of the Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel," he told Israel Radio.
The Israeli military "has made preparations for long weeks of action," added Matan Vilnai, a deputy defence minister, in separate broadcast remarks.
Israeli missiles flattened five ministerial buildings and a structure belonging to the Islamic University in Gaza City on Tuesday, witnesses said. Another strike in northern Gaza Strip's Beit Hanoun, killed two young girls taking out the trash near their home, medical workers and witnesses said.
A Hamas sports centre and two training camps belonging to the group were also destroyed in the attacks. Israeli aircraft also fired missiles at the home of a senior commander in Hamas' armed wing. He was not home. Another attack targeted offices belonging to the Popular Resistance Committees group.