Israel Mulls Brief Truce as Warplanes Pound Gaza

Israel on Tuesday mulled a proposed 48-hour truce after world leaders stepped up calls for an end to the violence and warplanes pummeled Hamas targets in the battered Gaza Strip for a fourth day.

But officials warned earlier that the onslaught, which has killed at least 375 Palestinians and wounded over 2,000 since Saturday, could continue for weeks.

Israel’s air offensive in the Gaza Strip has destroyed a third of the Hamas rocket arsenal, Israel’s Channel 10 television said on Tuesday citing military intelligence assessments.

It said the Palestinian faction had around 2,000 rockets, including hundreds capable of reaching deep into the Jewish state, down from 3,000 when the assault began on Saturday. Hamas has fired scores of rockets at Israel during the fighting.
Hamas Threatens

The armed wing of Hamas earlier vowed to send rockets deeper into Israel than ever before if the Jewish state continued its deadly bombardment of its Gaza Strip stronghold.

"We tell the leaders of the enemy — if you continue with your assault, we will hit with our rockets further than the cities we have hit so far," a masked spokesman for Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said in televised comments.

"If you think that Hamas and al-Qassam will be crushed, we will rise up from the rubble," he said.

"If you decide to enter the Gaza Strip, the land in Gaza will burn under your feet and it will explode under your soldiers and Gaza children will collect parts of your bodies and your tanks from the streets," he said.

Hamas has also warned it could launch suicide attacks inside Israel for the first time since January 2005 in response to the bombardment.
Fresh Air Strikes

Israeli warplanes carried out dozens of air strikes earlier on Tuesday on the impoverished area that killed 10 people, including two sisters aged four and 11, Palestinian medical sources said.

Lama and Haya Hamdan were killed in a raid targeting a donkey cart in the town of Beit Hanun in northern Gaza, the sources said.

Israeli armored vehicles and troops were massed along the border for a possible invasion as Tel Aviv said there was no end in sight to its deadly assault until the threat of rocket fire from the coastal territory has been removed.

Israeli officials said they were prepared to go on for weeks, including a possible ground operation.

Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the military "has made preparations for some long weeks of action."

Gaza forces have fired more than 250 rockets into Israel since Saturday, killing four people — three civilians and one soldier — and wounding several dozen others, according to medics.
Closed Zone

Most Gazans in the territory of 1.5 million people, one of the most densely populated on earth, have stayed home, in rooms away from windows that could shatter in blasts from air strikes on Hamas facilities.

Israel declared areas around the Gaza Strip a "closed military zone", citing the risk from Palestinian rockets, and ordered out journalists observing a build-up of armored forces.

Excluding the press could help Israel conceal preparations for a ground incursion following an air campaign that has turned buildings to rubble and left hospitals chaotic and struggling to cope.

( and news agencies)

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