Israel pressed on for a fourth day on Friday with its Gaza offensive, striking the Hamas-dominated enclave from air and sea, as Palestinian militants kept up rocket attacks deep into the Jewish state.
At least 82 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed in the offensive, which Israel says it launched to end persistent rocket attacks on its civilian population, some of which have reached Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and other cities.
Israeli leaders have appeared to hint at a possible invasion by ground forces and some 20,000 army reservists have been mobilised, giving them the means, if they choose, to mount a land offensive.
Gaza medical officials said four people were killed in Israeli pre-dawn attacks. The Israeli military said fresh naval and air strikes were launched early, but a spokeswoman gave no further details.
An air strike on a house in Gaza City killed a man described by officials as a doctor and pharmacist. Medics and residents said an Israeli aircraft bombed a three-storey house in the southern town of Rafah, killing three people.
The Palestinians said Israeli tanks fired shells east of Rafah, naval forces sent shells into a security compound in Gaza City and aircraft bombed positions near the borders with Egypt and Israel.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a televised statement on Thursday: “So far the battle is progressing as planned, but we can expect further stages in future. Up to now, we have hit Hamas and the terror organisations hard and as the battle continues we will increase strikes at them.”
Netanyahu discussed options with his security cabinet as new air strikes were launched and officials hinted at a ground offensive. There was no word on when or if this might happen.
The last time they undertook such an offensive was in early 2009. Ground troops did not cross into the Strip, one of the world’s most densely populated territories, during the last major exchange of rockets and missiles in October 2012.
“We have long days of fighting ahead of us,” Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri sounded a defiant note, when asked about Yaalon’s remarks. “Our backs are to the wall and we have nothing to lose,” he said. “We are ready to battle until the end.”
The Israeli military said more than 470 projectiles have been fired at Israel since Tuesday by Islamist Hamas, the dominant force in Gaza, and by other militant groups.
The salvoes have caused no fatalities or serious injuries, due in part to interception by Israel’s partly-U.S. funded Iron Dome aerial defence system.
Some rockets have landed more than 100 km (60 miles) from Gaza. Sirens sounded as far north as the Israeli city of Haifa on Friday, though police said no remnants of rockets, which Hamas said it had fired, were found.
Children among the dead
Medical officials in Gaza said at continued…
PHOTOS: Amitabh Bachchan, Dhanush, Akshara Haasan take 'Shamitabh' to London