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Israel and Hamas intensify attacks
- Palestinians say 47 dead in Gaza, mostly civilians; Violence worst since 2012

Gaza/Jerusalem, July 9 (Reuters): Israeli air strikes shook Gaza every few minutes today, and militants kept up rocket fire at Israel’s heartland in intensifying warfare that Palestinian officials said has killed at least 47 people in the Hamas-dominated enclave.

Missiles from Israel’s Iron Dome defence system shot into the sky to intercept rockets launched, for the second straight day, at Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial capital. Some were also aimed at Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant, 80km from Gaza, but were either shot down or landed in open country.

With cries of “Allah-u- Akbar”, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip cheered as rockets streaked overhead towards Israel, in attacks that could provide a popularity boost for Islamist Hamas, whose rift with neighbouring Egypt’s military-backed government has deepened economic hardship.

Dimona, desert site of a nuclear reactor and widely assumed to have a role in atomic weaponry, was targeted by locally made M-75 long-range rockets, militants said. The Israeli army said the Iron Dome shot down one and two others caused no damage — it was unclear how close they came to the town or the nuclear site.

Communities near coastal Tel Aviv and in the south, closer to Gaza, were also targeted. In the longest-range attack since yesterday, when Israel stepped up its offensive, a rocket hit near Zichron Yaakov, a town 115km north of Gaza.

At least 41 civilians, including 12 children, were among the 47 Palestinian dead in two days of fighting, and some 300 people have been wounded, hospital officials said.

No Israeli deaths or serious injuries were reported and Israeli news reports hailed as heroes the military crews of the Iron Dome batteries, which are made in Israel and partly funded by the US. The military said 48 rockets struck Israel today, and Iron Dome intercepted 14 others.

With frequent explosions from air strikes echoing through Gaza City, its main shopping street was largely deserted.

The Israeli military said it had bombarded 550 Hamas sites, including 60 rocket launchers and 11 homes of senior Hamas members. It described those dwellings as command centres. Palestinian officials said at least 25 houses were either destroyed or damaged and not all belonged to militants.

In an air strike on a home in the north of the Gaza Strip, a leader of the Islamic Jihad group and five of his family were killed, the Palestinian interior ministry said. An 80-year-old woman was killed in an Israeli attack on another target in the centre of the 40-km long territory, local officials said.

A 60-year-old man and his son were also killed when two missiles hit their house in Beit Hanoun in the north. Israeli strikes on militants’ homes, local residents said, are usually preceded by either warning fire or a telephone call telling its inhabitants to flee, in an attempt by Israel to avoid civilian casualties.

Abbas, who entered a power-sharing arrangement with Hamas in April after years of feuding, said he had spoken to Egypt about the Gaza crisis: “This war is not against Hamas or any faction but is against the Palestinian people,” the western-backed leader said.

 
 
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