Israel will take “whatever action is necessary” to defend its citizens from Palestinian rocket attacks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday as the military pressed a massive operation in Gaza.
Israel will “continue to take whatever action is necessary to defend our people,” he said at a televised press conference in Tel Aviv.
“Our army will expand its operations to protect Israel … more than 50 rockets landed in Israel during past 50 hours,” Netanyahu told reporters.
But a spokesman from Hamas, which held a press conference also on Thursday, condemned Israel for “trying to exploit the war on Gaza for political purposes.”
“Israel has used every weapon to attack civilians in Gaza,” he told reporters adding: “Our battle with Israel is open-ended, progressive and escalating.
‘We will not be exposed to further tricks by the occupation. We consider talk of a truce at this time an attempt to provide more cover for the continuation of the escalation on Gaza.
‘Talk of a truce is another attempt by the occupation at deception,’ he said, adding that ‘the enemy started an open war on our people and our resistance in Gaza," he added
Fighting began with Israel’s targeted killing of Hamas military chief Ahmed Jaabari on Wednesday. Since then, Palestinian fighters have fired around rockets over the border.
The Israeli strikes have killed 14 people in Gaza since Wednesday afternoon, while Gaza rockets have killed three Israelis, police and medics said.
Aside the from the deaths, more than 130 Gazans have been injured in 22 hours of Israeli air strikes, medics said.
“The Palestinian men and women will continue their resistance,” vowed Khaled Meshaal, the exiled chief of the Hamas movement which rules the Palestinian territory, on Thursday.
He described Israel as “not a legitimate entity” and said “this enemy is weak and cannot vanquish Gaza.”
A fresh wave of strikes was reported on Thursday afternoon by Al Arabiya.
Meanwhile, Israel’s already-strained relations with Egypt’s new Islamist government frayed even further as Egypt recalled its ambassador Wednesday in response to the Israeli military operation.
Gaza rocket hits sea near Tel Aviv
A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip on Thursday landed in the water just south of Tel Aviv, an AFP correspondent at the scene said, sparking panic across Israel’s commercial capital.
The rocket fire was claimed by the armed wing of the radical Islamic Jihad movement.
It was the farthest that a rocket from Gaza had ever hit inside Israel, and came as the air force pressed a major bombing campaign across the Hamas-run territory.
“A rocket crashed into the water just outside of Jaffa,” the correspondent said, as police confirmed that warning sirens had gone off across Tel Aviv.
“I was standing outside the French ambassador’s residence when I saw the rocket falling into the sea,” he said.
“There was about a minute between the sirens going off, warning residents to enter the shelters and the rocket landing. People in the street started running in all directions because they didn’t know where to shelter,” he said.
Israeli news networks said it was the first time rockets had been fired at the city since the 1991 Gulf War, when it was hit by Iraqi Scud missiles.