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Hamas sends rockets deeper into Israel as Gaza casualties grow from airstrikes

July 9, 2014 at 6:06 PM EST
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Middle East today, the battle between Israel and Hamas raged on. Israeli airstrikes intensified on Gaza, pushing the Palestinian death toll to more than 50. Meanwhile, Hamas fired rockets aimed at Tel Aviv for a second straight day. The militant group even attempted to strike Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant.

Towering plumes of black smoke rose all across Gaza today. The Israeli military said it has hit more than 550 Hamas targets in two days.

MOHAMMED AL-NUASRAH (through interpreter): This is a crime against the Palestinian people, against children, against women, against our scholars. What was the fault of these children who were just sleeping in their beds, when these airstrikes shake and demolish the homes over their heads?

JUDY WOODRUFF: As the casualties grew, hundreds of Palestinian mourners flooded the streets of Khan Yunis for the funerals of eight killed in airstrikes on Tuesday. Two children were among the dead.

Looking on from the West Bank, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas labeled the Gaza offensive a war crime.

PRESIDENT MAHMOUD ABBAS, Palestinian Authority (through interpreter): This family lost seven and that family lost seven. One was 6 years old. One was 70. And all the ages in between got killed with airstrikes and rockets. So what is this crime called? What would we call it legally, he who kills an entire family? Isn’t this collective punishment? Genocide. This is called genocide.

JUDY WOODRUFF: And Hamas, which rules Gaza, vowed retaliation is coming.

MUSHIR AL-MASRI, Hamas Spokesman (through interpreter): By demolishing civilian homes because of the commitment to massacre from the Zionist enemy, they have crossed a line. The occupiers will pay a high price. The resistance will not stay silent.

JUDY WOODRUFF: So, the barrage of Hamas rocket fire on Israel continued, day and night, and deeper than ever into Israeli territory.

A wedding in Holon was interrupted by incoming rockets, but the Iron Dome system managed to intercept them in the sky. On the streets of Tel Aviv, air raid sirens had people running for shelter as more rockets fell.

SHANY CHAYAT (through interpreter): Yesterday, when I heard the sirens, I was upset, but you know there have already been several days of sirens. It doesn’t matter if it’s Tel Aviv or Southern Israel. It’s a whole country that is under rocket attack and no other country has spoken about it.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Israeli tanks lined up at the border, and officials suggested a ground offensive may be coming soon.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu:

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel (through interpreter): We will not tolerate fire on our towns and cities and our children. And Hamas will pay a heavy price. We are in the midst of a military operation. We need, as I have said and I’m saying again, patience, determination and resoluteness.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The United States again urged restraint, but there was every sign the fighting would continue for at least another day.