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Israel ramps up airstrikes; Palestinians fear possible ground assault

July 10, 2014 at 7:39 PM EDT
The death toll and damage in Gaza continued to mount today, as Israel increased its air assault on the Palestinian territory. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to target Israel’s two largest cities with missile strikes, provoking Israeli troops and tanks to prepare for a possible ground assault. Judy Woodruff reports.
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JUDY WOODRUFF: The White House announced late today that President Obama has told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. is willing to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.

On the ground, the death toll and damage continued to mount in Gaza today, as Israel sharply stepped up its air assault on the Palestinian territory. Palestinians reported at least 85 people have been killed this week. The Israeli military said it hit 500 targets throughout the day and 860 since the offensive began. Meanwhile, Hamas continued to target Israel’s two largest cities with missile strikes.

Palestinians picked through the rubble of still smoldering homes in Gaza, even as other buildings burned from fresh Israeli airstrikes. In Israel, streets were filled with more people running for cover, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, as Hamas militants shot off more rockets. Most have been intercepted by Israeli air defense.

ARIEL YISHAH MOSHE (through interpreter): We were just passing by the bridge at the entrance of Jerusalem, and we heard the sirens, so we went into the supermarket straight away. Yes, in the beginning, it’s scary. It is bizarre that it is getting all the way to Jerusalem.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The crisis forced an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council in New York, where the Israeli ambassador used a smartphone to help make his point.

(SIREN BLARING)

RON PROSOR, UN Ambassador, Israel: Fifteen seconds, that’s how much time you have to run for your life. Imagine having only 15 seconds to find a bomb shelter. Now imagine doing it with small children, or elderly parents, or an ailing friend. A generation of Israeli children is growing up under the shadow of this threat.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Outside the meeting, the Palestinian ambassador said his people have even less time to escape danger.

RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN: If 15 seconds it takes to react to an incoming rocket, how many seconds does it take to react to a raiding aircraft over the heads of our people in the Gaza Strip? I can assure you, it doesn’t take more than one or two seconds. It is death for sure, as we have noticed today, a death of total family, composed of eight individuals, five of them children.

JUDY WOODRUFF: That family died in a predawn Israeli airstrike that destroyed their home.

IYAD HAMAD (through interpreter): Children, women and old people. There can’t be more oppression than this in the world. Can’t they see what is happening to the people here?

JUDY WOODRUFF: Their funerals were held later in the day, and mourners carried their bodies through the streets of Khan Yunis wrapped in Hamas flags. A spokesman for the militant group called it genocide.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Hamas spokesman (through interpreter): We confirm that what is happening in Gaza are real war crimes that take place while the world is standing in silence and the Arab world is weak. We ask the international community to carry out its responsibilities against the war crimes committed by the occupation.

JUDY WOODRUFF: But last night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu blamed Hamas for putting Palestinians in harm’s way.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, Prime Minister, Israel: It embeds its terrorists in hospitals and schools, and mosques, apartment buildings throughout the Gaza Strip. Hamas is thus committing a double war crime. It targets Israeli civilians, while hiding behind Palestinian civilians.

JUDY WOODRUFF: As the airstrikes continued, there were also more signs that a ground assault may be coming. Israeli troops trained, as tanks moved into strategic positions all along the border with Gaza.