26 killed as Israel targets Gaza with air strikes

Hamas rocket barrage kills two Israelis.

Israel unleashed new air strikes on Gaza early on Tuesday, hitting a pair of high-rise buildings believed to be housing militants, as Hamas and other armed groups bombarded southern Israel with hundreds of rockets. The escalation was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.

Since sundown on Monday, 26 Palestinians — including nine children and a woman — were killed in Gaza, most by air strikes, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military said at least 16 of the dead were militants. During the same period, Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel, killing two Israeli civilians and wounding 10 others.

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In a further sign of rising tensions, Israel signalled it is widening its military campaign. The military said it is sending troop reinforcements to the Gaza border and the Defence Minister ordered the mobilisation of 5,000 reserve soldiers.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “it was decided that both the might of the attacks and the frequency of the attacks will be increased”.

But, in a potentially positive sign, Egyptian and Palestinian officials said Egypt was working on brokering a cease-fire.

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The barrage of rockets and air strikes was preceded by hours of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including dramatic confrontations at Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, a sacred site to both Jews and Muslims.

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