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Death toll mounts as Israeli bombs hit Gaza strip

July 12, 2014 at 6:22 PM EDT
The latest round of violence triggered by the kidnapping and murder of three Jewish teenagers escalated Saturday when Israeli bombs destroyed a mosque on the Gaza strip. At least 125 Palestinians have been killed during recent fighting. For more, Josef Federman of the Associated Press joins Hari Sreenivasan via Skype from Jerusalem.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Good evening, thanks for joining us.

The latest round of Middle Eastern violence triggered by the kidnapping and murder of those three Jewish teenagers escalated again today when Israeli bombs destroyed a mosque on the Gaza strip. Israel said weapons were being stored there. At least 125 Palestinians have died during the recent fighting.

For the latest we are joined once again tonight from Jerusalem via Skype by Josef Federman of the Associated Press. So what’s the latest you’re hearing about the bombing of that mosque?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah what Israel says is that the area was used to store rockets and other weapons and this has been a challenge for Israel I think from day one. It says that a lot of the weapons that it’s attacking are hidden in civilian areas like mosques, schools, residential areas, and it says it’s taking precautions to avoid damage to these buildings and to civilians but still sometimes these attacks take place.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And what about the pace of rocketfire from Gaza?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: The situation in the South was a little more calm in Southern Israel which is the hardest hit area — that said there still have been dozens of rockets today. I think over sixty the last time I checked, including one that said off air raid sirens here in Jerusalem.

HARI SREENIVASAN: And what more are we hearing about the civilian casualties in Gaza?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Well the death toll now overall in this operation has exceeded 125, I think it’s up to 127 at this point. But many dozens — we don’t even know the exact number, many of the dead are civilians.

In some cases they are relatives of men who were targeted by Israel and other times it’s accidental. This is an issue and it’s always been a challenge for Israel because of the landscape in Gaza. You’re dealing with a very densely-populated urban landscape where it’s very difficult to pinpoint as hard as Israel tries, it’s very difficult to avoid these types of casualties.

So today for example, we saw an attack that hit a center for the disabled and two women who were severely disabled were killed.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Now is there an active conversation or even a debate happening in Israel about how long this operation should take?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: Yeah there seems to be. There are signs that diplomacy is starting to take hold. We see a meeting of the security council today calling on Israel or calling on both sides for a ceasefire.

An interesting statement came out of London from the British foreign minister also calling for an immediate ceasefire expressing concerns about civilian casualties on the Palestinian side and announcing that a number of his counterparts will be meeting tomorrow in Vienna to discuss ceasefire efforts

HARI SREENIVASAN: Even if there are these options to mediate a settlement whether it’s from the U.S. whether it’s from Arab League, would Prime Minister Netanyahu consider this?

JOSEF FEDERMAN: I’ve been in touch with his office I’ve been speaking to Israeli officials all day and they say it could go in either direction. They are ready to keep on pounding targets in Gaza. Israel says it’s going to keep on pushing forwards, it’s not going to be deterred by international pressure, but when all of its allies keep on ganging up and saying enough is enough, it’s going to have to listen and I think over the next day or two you’re going to see that.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Josef Federman of the Associated Press, thanks so much.