GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip
Ignoring international appeals for a cease-fire, Israel on Saturday widened its range of Gaza bombing targets to civilian institutions with suspected Hamas ties and announced it would hit northern Gaza “with great force” to prevent rocket attacks from there on Israel. More than 156 Palestinians have been killed in five days of bombardment.
One of the Israeli strikes hit a center for the disabled where Palestinians said two patients were killed and four people seriously hurt. In a second attack, Saturday evening, an Israeli warplane flattened the home of Gaza’s police chief and damaged a nearby mosque as evening prayers ended, killing at least 18 people, officials said.
In New York, the U.N. Security Council called unanimously for a cease-fire, while Britain’s foreign minister said he will discuss cease-fire efforts with his American, French and German counterparts today.
So far, neither Israel nor Gaza’s Hamas rulers have signaled willingness to stop.
Israel carried out more than 1,200 airstrikes last week to try to diminish Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israel, and the chief military spokesman, Brig. Gen. Motti Almoz, said Saturday there would be more strikes, especially in northern Gaza near the Israeli border.
“We are going to attack there with great force in the next 24 hours due to a very large concentration of Hamas efforts in that area,” he said. Late Saturday, the military said it was ordering Palestinians in northern Gaza to evacuate “for their own safety.”
Gaza’s Interior Ministry urged residents in the area to ignore Israel’s warnings and to stay in their homes, saying the announcement was Israeli “psychological warfare” and an attempt to create confusion.
Shortly after the Israeli announcement, an Israeli warplane struck the home of the Gaza police chief, Taysir al-Batsh, killing at least 18 people and wounding 50, said Health Ministry official Ashraf al-Kidra. He said worshippers were leaving the mosque after evening prayers at the time of the strike and that some people are believed to be trapped under the rubble.
Meanwhile, Hamas, the Islamic militant group that controls Gaza, has fired nearly 700 rockets and mortars at Israel in the past week and said it wouldn’t be the first to cease fire.