What's next in the Gaza conflict…
Israel pressed on with its seven-day-old air attack on Hamas militants in Gaza on Friday and the death toll reached 424 Palestinians, with 2,000 more wounded in the blockaded coastal strip. Gaza rocket attacks have killed 4 Israelis, Reuters reported.
Here are some questions and answers about the conflict:
Q - Where do things stand now?
A - Israel continues to hit Hamas mainly from the air at its government buildings, the homes of leaders and militants and their infrastructure, such as smuggling tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border that serve as supply lines for the Islamist group and for the Gaza Strip as a whole. An Israeli naval vessel has also fired on targets from close offshore, but so far there has been no move into Gaza by Israeli armor and infantry massed along the border. Despite the offensive, Hamas rockets are hitting deeper inside Israel and have struck the city of Beersheba, 40 km (24 miles) away. The rockets are very inaccurate, and Israel's advanced early warning system has helped keep casualties low.
Q - What's life like in Gaza?
A - Food is in short supply, especially rice, flour, sugar and dairy products. This is partly due to hoarding. Electricity is on for 3 to 6 hours a day. There is no shortage of water and the city is not totally blacked out at night. Hospitals do not have enough beds or medicine to cope with the wounded. They also say they lack at least 70 kinds of drugs for serious illnesses such as cancer and kidney failure.
Palestinians cannot leave unless Israel permits them or they are ready to risk the perilous trip through a tunnel to Egypt. Israel has allowed a few hundred foreign passport holders to leave and has admitted at least 16 Palestinians for special medical treatment. Residents of Gaza City have taped up windows in case of explosions that send glass flying. They are wary of going outdoors, of going to mosques that may be targeted as suspected Hamas arms dumps or command posts, and of living next to anyone who gets an Israel air force telephone warning to "Get out of your house because it is going to be bombed."
Q - Will Israel launch a ground invasion?
A - This has been the big question for several days, with rumors growing that it is more likely than not and more imminent by the hour. Tanks, artillery, troops and armored personnel carriers are massed at several points along the 40 km border of Gaza, with mine-clearing armor and bulldozers to push a route through Hamas defenses.