Mortars Land Deep in Israel as Troops Move Near Gaza

Conflict shows no signs of slowing with nearly 300 Palestinians dead.

BySimon Mcgregor-wood and Lee Ferran via via logo
December 28, 2008, 10:55 AM

Dec. 28, 2008 — -- On the second day of deadly Israeli air strikes in the Gaza Strip, Palestinians in Gaza sent a smattering of rockets and mortar fire into Israel -- some reaching targets deeper inside the country than ever before.

As Israeli infantry and armored units headed toward the Gaza border, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told NBC's "Meet the Press" today that there are no plans to occupy Gaza. Israel called up 6,500 reservists today, the BBC reported.

Despite pleas by the United Nations Security Council for an immediate end to the violence, Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said "Israel will continue until we have a new security in the south [of Israel], when the population there will no longer live in terror and in fear of constant rocket barrages."

The Israeli Army says that over the last week militants have fired 300 rockets or mortars at targets in Israel. One Israeli died in a rocket attack on Saturday according to a report by the Associated Press.

But longtime Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi told "Good Morning America" today that Hamas militants were "provoked" into violence by what she called an Israeli occupation of Gaza.

"The thing is Israel continued its state of siege, continued its encouragements, gave itself a free hand in Gaza, practically starved the people with a very ruthless blockade and that gave Hamas no choice," Ashrawi said, referring to the blockade of food, fuel and medical supplies that began in June 2007 when Hamas gained control of the region.

"So even though we do not condone violence by any side, it is the strongest side, the occupying power that bears the responsibility of not targeting a captive, defenseless population," Ashrawi added.

Since the beginning of the Israeli strikes yesterday, at least 250 airstrikes have taken nearly 300 lives in crowded areas in Hamas-ruled Gaza and left at least 600 injured.

With 280 Palestinians killed on Saturday, that day may have been the single deadliest day in the Gaza Strip in more than 40 years, since Israel's occupation of the region in 1967, according to a BBC report.

"The responsibility of the Israeli government is to protect its citizens and to act against terror in order to change realities on the ground and to bring peace and calm to this region," said Livni Saturday.

The attacks come just a few days after a six month cease-fire expired between Israel and Palestinian militants. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the United States holds Hamas responsible for the renewed violence.

The Associated Press and the BBC contributed to this report.

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