Israel raid kills 11 civilians in Gaza

International

At least 11 Palestinian civilians, including four children, were killed on Sunday in what Hamas said was an Israeli air strike on a Gaza apartment building, the highest death toll in a single incident in five days of fighting.

A spokesman for the Hamas-run Interior Ministry said an Israeli missile wrecked the three-storey building, killing 11 people, all of them civilians. Medics said four children of the al-Dalo family were among the dead.

Israel gave off signs of a possible ground invasion of the Hamas-run enclave as the next stage in its air and sea offensive billed as a bid to stop Palestinian rocket fire into the Jewish state, while also spelling out its conditions for a truce.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was ready to widen its offensive. "We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation," he said at a cabinet meeting.

Israel's Interior Minister Eli Yishai went a step ahead when he said "the goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages". "Only then will Israel be calm for 40 years," Interior Minister Eli Yishai was quoted as saying by Haaretz newspaper.

US President Barack Obama said that while Israel had a right to defend itself against rocket salvoes, it would be preferable to avoid a military thrust into the Gaza Strip. "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," he said. "We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself," Obama said.

At a news conference during his visit to Bangkok, Obama said Israel has every right to expect that it does not have missiles fired into its territory. He added: "If this can be accomplished without a ramping up of military activity in Gaza that is preferable. That's not just preferable for the people of Gaza, it's also preferable for Israelis because if Israeli troops are in Gaza they're much more at risk of incurring fatalities or being wounded."

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