GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – An Israeli missile ripped through a two-story home in a residential area of Gaza City on Sunday, killing at least 11 civilians, including four young children and an 81-year-old woman, in the single deadliest attack of Israel’s offensive against Islamic militants.
In all, 73 Palestinians, including 37 civilians, have been killed in the five-day onslaught.
President Obama said he was in touch with players across the region in hopes of halting the fighting, while also warning of the risks of Israel expanding its air assault into a ground war.
We’re going to have to see what kind of progress we can make in the next 24, 36, 48 hours, Obama said during a visit in Thailand.
On the ground, there were no signs of any letup in the fighting as Israel announced it was widening the offensive to target the military commanders of the ruling Hamas group.
The Israeli military carried out dozens of airstrikes throughout the day, and naval forces bombarded targets along Gaza’s Mediterranean coast. Many of the attacks focused on homes where militant leaders or weapons were believed to be hidden.
Palestinian militants continued to barrage Israel with rockets, firing more than 100 on Sunday, and setting off air raid sirens across the southern part of the country. Forty rockets were intercepted by Israel’s U.S.-financed Iron Dome rocket-defense system, including two that targeted the metropolis of Tel Aviv. At least 10 Israelis were wounded by shrapnel.
Israel’s decision to step up its attacks in Gaza marked a new and risky phase of the operation, given the likelihood of civilian casualties in the densely populated territory of 1.6 million Palestinians. Israel launched the offensive Wednesday in what it said was an effort to end months of intensifying rocket fire from the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.
More than a dozen homes of Hamas commanders or families linked to Hamas were struck on Sunday. Although most were empty – their inhabitants having fled to shelter – at least three had families in them. Al-Kidra said 20 of 27 people killed Sunday were civilians, mostly women and children.
Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, said that the Israeli people will pay the price for the killing of civilians.