Israel escalates Gaza offensive, casualties mount

JERUSALEM (AP) - Israel dramatically escalated its aerial assault targeting hundreds of Hamas sites in the Gaza Strip today as Palestinians reported the strikes also hit a home and a beachside cafe, raising the total number of people killed in this week's offensive to at least 85. Israel's missile defense system also once again intercepted rockets fired by Gaza militants at the country's two largest cities, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. The Israeli military said it had struck a total of some 500 targets throughout the day, focusing on underground tunnel networks and rocket launching sites. In all, the military said it has hit some 860 sites since the operation started Tuesday.

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