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Israel steps up offensive as diplomacy kicks off



Published: Wed, July 9, 2014 @ 6:45 p.m.

JERUSALEM (AP) — With rockets raining deep inside Israel, the military pummeled Palestinian targets today across the Gaza Strip and threatened a broad ground offensive, while the first diplomatic efforts to end two days of heavy fighting got underway.

Egypt, which has mediated before between Israel and the Hamas militant group, said it spoke to all sides about ending the violence. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was in touch with Israel to try to lower tensions. And the United Nations chief warned of a "deteriorating situation ... which could quickly get beyond anyone's control."

As the Palestinian death toll rose above 60, neither side showed any sign of halting their heaviest fighting since an eight-day battle in late 2012.

Israel said it hit more than 300 targets and Hamas positions throughout Gaza, including rocket-launchers, weapons-storage sites and tunnels that it said the group uses to carry out attacks. The military said 74 rockets landed in Israel, including one that reached the northern city of Hadera, the deepest rocket strike ever from Gaza.

"Hamas will pay a heavy price for firing toward Israeli citizens," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. "The operation will expand and continue until the fire toward our towns stops and quiet returns."


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