Israeli air strikes kill 25 as offensive enters 3rd day

Israel's air force today intensified its offensive against Hamas targets, killing at least 25 people, taking the death toll to 76 on the third day of hostilities as Palestinian militants fired 15 rockets into the Jewish state. Gaza medical officials claimed that half of the total casualties since the Israeli military launched an operation against Hamas militants on Monday were civilians, including women and children in the deadliest conflict in the region in nearly two years.

Eight Palestinians were killed in an air raid on a house near the southern town of Khan Yunis early today, the Palestinian health ministry said. There have been no Israeli deaths so far. In another attack, a cafe in the same area was hit, killing nine people. Three people also died in an Israeli strike on a car in western Gaza City. An Israeli military spokesman said the deaths at the house in Khan Yunis were "a tragedy - not what we intended", as people had returned to the building too soon following a telephone warning. The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said that the home was the residence of Odeh Kaware, Hamas' Khan Younis company commander, and served as his headquarters.

Palestinian sources said 25 people were also wounded in the strikes on the house. Despite the deaths, the Israeli military would continue to bomb the homes of senior Hamas operatives, even though the air force realises that sometimes residents of a targeted building try to prevent the bombings by standing on the roof as human shields, a high-ranking IDF officer was quoted as saying.
'We will take down those houses,' he reportedly said. The Palestinian health ministry said at least 76 people, including, several women and children, have been killed since the Israeli army launched Operation Protective Edge to silence Hamas rocket attacks.

More than 750 targets have been attacked in Gaza with the help of about 800 tonnes of explosives. Roughly 300 rockets, including some with a range of more than a 100 kms, were fired on Israel in the bloodiest fighting in the region since November, 2012. Meanwhile, rocket sirens sounded in Tel Aviv again this morning and were immediately followed by a series of audible explosions, most likely the Iron Dome anti-missile shield which picked off the rockets flying toward the area. On Tuesday, 117 rockets fired by Hamas militants struck Israel, and 29 were intercepted while another 90 hit Israel yesterday, and 24 were intercepted. Today, 15 rockets struck Israel, while another seven were intercepted, army figures show. An IDF spokesperson said the Israeli Air Force had struck 320 targets in Gaza over the past 24 hours.
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