Hamas firing M302 rockets that can `strike most of Israel`

A day after Israel ratcheted up air and sea offensive in the Gaza Strip, hundreds of rockets were fired towards southern Israel by Hamas militants in response, with many targeted towards the city of Jerusalem as well.

Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha

Jerusalem: As Israel-Gaza border conflict intensified with salvos of rockets and missiles being launched across the border, US President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged both the sides to act sensibly and not in a revengeful spirit.

A day after Israel ratcheted up air and sea offensive in the Gaza Strip, targeting 160 Hamas sites overnight, hundreds of rockets were fired towards southern Israel by Hamas militants in response, with many targeted towards the city of Jerusalem as well.

Israeli Army said that the Hamas militants were firing the long range M302 rockets (with a range of 90-150km) that could `strike most of Israel`.

Gaza is said to possess dozens of M302 rockets in its arsenal.

The fresh escalation in the border conflict came as Israel launched an offensive code-named Operation Protective Edge and declared that it was determined to stop firing from Gaza militants to defend its citizens who live under constant threat of rockets.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who had earlier suggested acting with a "cool head" over the situation, sounded determined late Tuesday night when he justified expanded operations against Gaza.

"No other country lives under such a threat, and no country would accept such a threat," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

"We have therefore significantly expanded our operations against Hamas and the other terrorist organisations in Gaza."

However, US President Barack Obama has urged both the sides to show caution and act sensibly instead of retaliating, in order to protect the innocents.

Writing in a German weekly named Die Zeit, Obama wrote, "At this time of danger, everyone involved must protect the innocent and act in a sensible and measured way, not with revenge and retaliation".

In the article that will be published on Thursday, Obama said that both sides will have to accept risks for peace, reported the Reuters.

Israeli Defence Forces wrote on Twitter that some 150 rockets were fired by the Palestinian militants in last 24 hours, with dozens of Hamas “rockets reaching as far as 62 miles into the heart of #Israel in the span of 1 hr”.

The government has clamped emergency in southern Israel and schools within 40 Km of Gaza have been closed. Residents have been told to stay indoors.

The retaliatory firing from Gaza came after Israeli strikes killed more than 20 Palestinians yesterday.

Tuesday was one of the deadliest days in the conflict since 2012 as 28 Palestinians were killed and some 150 injured, reports cited medics.

At least 17 Palestinians, including several women and children, were killed on wednesday, as the death toll rose to 44 in two days of Israeli bombardment of militant positions in Gaza.

In one of the deadliest strikes yestersday, Israeli air strikes targeted a house in Khan Yunis, five minutes after warning the residents by phone to vacate the area.

People however defied the warning and reportedly formed a human shield to stop the attack, however they were killed. Among 7 killed, two were said to be children.

Angered with the children`s death, the Hamas yesterday vowed that the “enemy will have to pay a bitter price” and that all Israelis would be targeted in retaliation.

The Israeli military, however, said that the Hamas militants were “systematically using men, women and children as human shields”.

The Israeli military maintain that they are targeting the houses of Hamas members involved in launching rockets on Israel.

Israel meanwhile, said that it has begun the second day of Operation Protective Edge and in one of the first strikes on early Wednesday, a commander of al-Quds brigade, was killed along with his five family members in Beit Hanoun, in northern Gaza.

The Haaretz reported that two more Palestinians, including an elderly woman, were killed as the strikes continued on Wednesday.

Israeli Army said that it had intercepted 8 Gaza missiles today since morning. The Iron Dome intercepted 3 missiles over the city of Ashdod and Ashkelon each and two over Tel Aviv.

The Israeli military also posted a video footage on Twitter that showed Hamas militants infiltrating Israel from the sea near Zikim in order to carry out an attack.

The video shows Hamas men emerging from the sea in diving gear on an Israeli beach before being killed by Israeli troops.

The Israeli military is also known for warning the residents shortly before the attack, either via phone calls or by distributing leaflets, in a bid to steer clear of the charges of indiscriminate killing. However, such warnings by leaflets are considered more of a propaganda and the phone calls are not an effective method to minimise civilian deaths.

At the heart of the recent escalation of conflict is the abduction and murder of three Israeli teen students, who were allegedly killed by Hamas militants.  

However, the Palestinian militant group has denied any role.

What added fuel to the fire was a revenge killing, in which a Palestinian teenager named Mohammed Abu Khdair was abducted and burnt to death.  

The furore over the brutal murder of a Palestinian teenager in `revenge killing` manifested itself in the form of heightened conflict across the Israel-Gaza border with continued rounds of mortar and rocket firing from both sides.

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