Hamas fired dozens of rockets into southern Israel on Thursday, killing three people, and Israel launched numerous air strikes across the Gaza Strip, threatening a wider offensive to halt repeated Palestinian salvoes.
Israeli police said the three died when a Palestinian rocket hit a four-story building in the town of Kiryat Malachi, some 25 km (15 miles) north of Gaza. They were the first Israeli fatalities of the latest conflict to hit the coastal region.
Israel on Wednesday assassinated Hamas's military mastermind and shelled the enclave from the land, sea and air, killing 13 people, including five militants, three children and a pregnant woman. More than 100 were wounded.
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting late on Wednesday to discuss the Israeli assault. It called for a halt to the violence, but took no action.
Expecting days or more of fighting, Israel warned Hamas that all its men were in its sights and dropped leaflets in Gaza telling residents to keep their distance from militants and Hamas facilities.
"The leaflets stress that Hamas is dragging the region toward violence, and that the IDF is prepared to defend the residents of the State of Israel until quiet is restored to the region," the military said in a statement.
Israel weathered censure from influential Arab powers Egypt and Qatar. The United States condemned Hamas, shunned by the West as an obstacle to peace for its refusal to renounce violence and recognise Israel.
Hamas has said the killing of its top commander, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, would "open the gates of hell" for Israel. It also appealed to neighbouring Egypt to halt the "barbaric" assault.
Analysts predict war between Israel, Palestine
Most of political analysts on the Middle East predict war between Israel and Palestine amid the recent aggravation of tension between the parties of the conflict. The Israeli troops are on alert on the border with the Gaza Strip waiting for the order to launch an offensive, the Voice of Russia correspondent reports.
On November 10, Islamists opened mortar fire at the Israeli army jeep which led to mutual attacks which lasted for two days.
On Wednesday, after a short break Palestinians resumed missile attacks on Israel.
On Thursday, the UN Security Council held an emergency session on the Gaza Strip. Russias Permanent Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said that a number of countries including Russia urged restraint and an end to the violence.
UN Security Council finishes session on Gaza Strip
The UN Security Council has finished a 2 hours closed-door emergency session on the situation in Gaza. The ambassadors of Israel and the Palestinian administration spoke at the meeting. The representatives of 15 countries members of the UN Security Council exchanged opinions on the situation.
In general the meeting was not useless, Russias Permanent Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin told reporters Thursday. He said that a number of countries including Russia urged restraint and end of violence.
On Wednesday, Israel announced plans to hold a large scale military operation in the Gaza Strip as a response to Palestines missile attacks.
Israeli army may mobilize reservists
The Israeli army command has not ruled out that in order to destroy the missile arsenals of the Palestinian movement Hamas they might need not only the Air Force, but possibly to launch a ground operation into Gaza, therefore they have authorized the Army to call up reservists.
The Israeli Air Force struck dozens of targets on the Gaza Strip as part of a large-scale operation codenamed "Protective Pillar", which resulted in 12 Palestinians being killed, including the leader of the military wing of Hamas, Ahmed al-Jabari.
In response, Palestinian forces, according to various estimates, launched from 50 to 80 rockets into southern Israel, where two people were injured.
Hospitals in Sinai, Egypt which is located across the border from Gaza are on high alert and are expecting victims.
UN Security Council emergency meeting over Gaza violence underway in New York
The United Nations Security Council has called an emergency meeting to discuss escalating tensions between Israel and the Palestinian territory of Gaza.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon contacted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and in a telephone conversation expressed concern over the situation in Gaza.
While the UN Secretary General confirmed that he strongly condemns rocket fire from Gaza, he stressed that he expects a "weighed" response from Israel, "not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed that could result in more casualties among the civilian population."
Ban Ki-moon has urged both sides to exercise "maximum restraint and to respect international law."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that a resumption of negotiations by the Middle East "Quartet" is necessary to create conditions for negotiations between Palestine and Israel."
Voice of Russia, Reuters, AFP, RT, TASS, RIA
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