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Israel And Hamas Keep Up Attacks, Ignoring Calls For Peace

Israeli firefighters extinguish vehicles at a gas station in Ashdod, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday.
David Buimovitch
AFP/Getty Images
Israeli firefighters extinguish vehicles at a gas station in Ashdod, Israel, that was hit by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Friday.

This post was updated at 1 p.m. ET.

The number of Palestinians killed in Israel's aerial offensive that began this week has surpassed 100, according to health officials in Gaza. More than 600 people have been wounded in the ongoing exchange of airstrikes and rockets between Israel's military and the militant group Hamas.

"Since Israel launched its offensive four days ago it has attacked at least 1,100 sites in Gaza, half of them rocket launchers, the army says," Daniel Estrin reports for NPR from Jerusalem. "Today, rockets from Gaza were intercepted over Tel Aviv, and air raid sirens sounded in the northern city of Haifa for the first time."

On Friday, a rocket set a gas station on fire in Ashdod in southern Israel, and Hamas announced that it is targeting Ben Gurion Airport, Israel's main international airport near Tel Aviv. The group warned airlines not to fly there, saying that it "will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," according to the Jerusalem Post.

Reporting from Gaza, NPR's Emily Harris says, "As the numbers of dead and injured here in Gaza rise, so are international calls to stop the fighting. President Obama offered U.S. assistance to negotiate an end to current hostilities and perhaps restore the cease-fire that Hamas and Israel agreed to after eight days of fighting in 2012. Yesterday, both sides said they are not considering a cease-fire now."

Some of the rockets that were fired at Israel on Friday reportedly came from Lebanon.

The Associated Press reports:

"The Lebanese military said three rockets were fired toward Israel around 6 a.m., and the Israelis retaliated by firing about 25 artillery shells on the area.

"Lebanon's state-run National News Agency said that one of those suspected of firing the rockets was wounded and rushed to a hospital. The Lebanese military said troops found two rocket launchers and dismantled them."

While the rockets have disrupted life in Israel with air raid sirens and damage, many have missed targets or been intercepted by Israel's "Iron Dome" missile defense system. One Israeli civilian and an Israeli soldier have been seriously wounded, while other injuries have also been reported.

As NPR's Ari Shapiro reports, Israel's military credits the Iron Dome not only with deterring rocket strikes, but also with moderating public outrage in Israel.

Israel And Hamas Keep Up Attacks, Ignoring Calls For Peace

The thinking is that "if Israelis were being killed in large numbers, people would push for an even more aggressive response," Ari says, citing a military spokesman.

In a piece for All Things Considered, Ari quotes Israel's Housing Minister Uri Ariel as he toured a blackened hulk of a building hit by Hamas attacks.

"We must react strongly against the terrorist cells in Gaza," he said. "We must go in with ground forces, and we have to change the formula that's existed until now with terrorist organizations."

Israel has already called up 30,000 reservists, Estrin reports, adding, "The army says three infantry brigades are already stationed on the border with Gaza, and more are on the way."

Israeli tanks have also been moving there, but an invasion of Gaza could prove a no-win situation, Yaron Ezrahi, a professor at Hebrew University, tells NPR.

"You are damned if you invade, and you are damned if you don't," Ezrahi says.

"The attempt to conquer Gaza or eliminate Hamas may easily produce a worse alternative," he says. "Hamas is much better than chaos. We see chaos in places like Iraq and Syria."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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