Israel

Palestinian Body Count Tops 100 as Israel Responds to Rockets With Escalating Airstrikes and People on Both Sides Plead for Peace

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Violence continues to escalate in Israel and the Gaza Strip Friday. Palestinian sources say the death toll from Israeli airstrikes now totals more than 100 people, at least one third civilians. On Friday morning Israeli fighter jets struck at least 50 targets in Gaza as Hamas militants continued to launch rockets from the area into Israel. A rocket from an unknown party was fired from Lebanon into Israel on Friday morning as well. 

"We expected some activity from Lebanon," army spokesman Peter Lerner told the Los Angeles Times. "Now we have to see if it's symbolic or something more substantial."

Since fighting broke out in the area Tuesday, the Israeli army has targeted some 1,100 sites in Gaza, it says, while at least 400 rockets have landed in Israel. No Israelis have been killed, though several have been injured. 

In a conference call this morning Ron Dermer, Israeli Ambassador to the United States and close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called for ending the "moral equivalence language that has crept into the U.S. debate," as Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post puts it

"In the last 3 days Hamas has fired 400 rockets at Israel," he said. "Six million Israelis have had to rush to bomb shelters. That's 3/4 of our population. That's the equivalent of 200 million people in the United States." Several times he implored the pro-Israel group's members to consider what the U.S. would do under the same circumstances.

"The goal of the operation is to end the rocket attacks and restore quiet not just for a day, not just for a week, but for a good long time," he explained. He emphasized that Israel did try to offer a truce but was rebuffed. 

(…) "Hamas deliberately targets our civilians. The more killed the greater the success. For us, it is an operational failure if an innocent is killed," he said.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel of "genocide."

The BBC offers heartwrenching personal accounts from ordinary people in both Israel and Gaza. Here's a snippet from Haytham Besaiso, a 26-year-old Palestinian civil engineer living in Gaza City: 

This is the third war in five years. The difference this time is that Israel has no purpose or objective that we can see. All they are doing is killing civilians and targeting homes. In the first war they clearly attacked militants. In the second war they targeted weapons arsenal.

The Western media is portraying this as payback for the deaths of those three Israeli students but no-one on the Palestinian side has claimed responsibility for it. Usually someone does admit responsibility and they are very keen to do so. We don't even know what really happened, yet this feels like collective punishment.

And from Shimon Ben Shelaimi Zalman, a clerk living near Jerusalem:

It gives me no satisfaction when any civilians are injured, whether they be Christian, Jewish or Muslim. I can sympathise with Palestinians whose children must be suffering too. I think the Palestinians are being held captive by Hamas, the terrorist gang they voted into power. Unfortunately I can't see any solution to this.  

I believe most ordinary people want this conflict to be over but there are extremist elements that don't want to see a peaceful resolution. The inevitable outcome of these attacks is that the voices calling for both sides to live in peace will become less popular as the Israeli suffering increases.

And from Dania, a 23-year-old woman and English literature student from Gaza: 

We really want a ceasefire but it has to be observed on both sides.

Earlier today, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed that Israel is only hours away from invading with ground forces and warned international airlines that they plan to attack Tel Aviv's main airport with rockets.