Israel hits 30 targets with airstrikes in Gaza offensive
Israel launched airstrikes on some 30 targets of Hamas overnight, pressing on with its air campaign against the radical Islamic movement Monday, two days after it widened its Gaza offensive and sent in also ground troops.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due to travel to the Middle East Monday for talks in Cairo, Ramallah and Jerusalem, as part of international efforts to achieve a diplomatic solution, reported dpa.
Israel ground troops took control of areas from which Palestinian militants have been firing rockets at southern Israel. Their advance sparked clashes with local Hamas fighters.
According to Palestinian officials, at least 50 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the ground offensive after darkness on Saturday alone, while more than 200 have been injured.
Since Israel nine days ago launched its Operation "Cast Lead" - aimed at curbing seven years of rocket and mortar attacks against its southern towns and villages - more than 520 Palestinians were killed and at least 2,500 injured.
On Sunday, the Israeli army disconnected the north, including Gaza City, from the southern region of the salient.
Hamas, which has kept one Israeli soldier captive in Gaza since June 2005 as a bargaining chip to free Palestinian militants from Israeli prisons, has threatened to use the ground offensive to capture more Israeli soldiers. Israel Radio reported Monday that the Israeli army foiled one such attempt by Hamas fighters the previous day.
At least five Israeli soldiers were moderately injured overnight, Israel Radio reported, and an unknown number of Palestinians. One Israeli soldier was killed and some 31 injured in the fighting Sunday.
Four Israelis have also died by Palestinian rocket attacks since the Israeli operation began December 27.