Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

National and World

November 19, 2012

Israel bombing kills militant in Gaza Strip

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Israeli aircraft struck crowded areas in the Gaza Strip and killed a senior militant with a missile strike on a media center Monday, driving up the Palestinian death toll to 100, as Israel broadened its targets in the 6-day-old offensive meant to quell Hamas rocket fire on Israel.

Escalating its bombing campaign over the weekend, Israel began attacking homes of activists in Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. These attacks have led to a sharp spike in civilian casualties, killing 24 civilians in just under two days and doubling the number of civilians killed in the conflict, a Gaza health official said.

The rising toll came as Egyptian-led efforts to mediate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas got into gear.

While Israel and Hamas were far apart in their demands, both sides said they were open to a diplomatic solution — and prepared for further escalation if that failed.

The leader of Hamas took a tough stance, rejecting Israel's demands that the militant group stop its rocket fire. Instead, Khaled Mashaal said, Israel must meet Hamas' demands for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza.

"We don't accept Israeli conditions because it is the aggressor," he told reporters in Egypt. "We want a cease-fire along with meeting our demands."

An Israeli official said Israel hoped to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis as well and signaled Egypt was likely to play a key role in enforcing any truce.

"We prefer the diplomatic solution if it's possible. If we see it's not going to bear fruit, we can escalate," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic efforts under way.

The official said Israel doesn't want a "quick fix" that will result in renewed fighting months down the road. Instead, Israel wants "international guarantees" that Hamas will not rearm or use Egypt's neighboring Sinai peninsula for militant activity.

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