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Israeli forces launch airstrikes at Gaza to counter Hamas rocket attacks

July 8, 2014 at 6:20 PM EDT
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JUDY WOODRUFF: In the Middle East, tensions are running even higher, as fighting between Israel and Hamas intensified again today. Militant rockets reached Israel’s two largest cities, while Israeli airstrikes killed at least 25 people inside Gaza.

There was chaos in the streets of Gaza, as Palestinians ran for shelter, while Israeli forces blasted the coastal enclave. Airstrikes and naval gunfire sent plumes of smoke billowing into the skies, reducing homes and buildings to piles of rubble. The Israeli military called It Operation Protective Edge and released aerial video showing the results. It said the targets included homes of Hamas militants who fire rockets into Southern Israel, plus concealed launch sites.

President Shimon Peres said his nation was left with no choice.

PRESIDENT SHIMON PERES, Israel: They are shooting at our children, at our mothers, at our civilians. What for? We cannot compromise with death. We cannot compromise with rockets. We cannot compromise with this sort of behavior. And we shall stop them.

JUDY WOODRUFF: The Israelis said more than 130 rockets were fired from Gaza in the last 24 hours. Some were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system, including two rockets that targeted Tel Aviv, the deepest strike so far.

Later, air raid sirens also sounded in Jerusalem, but the military said there were no casualties. The government urged citizens living near Gaza to stay close to bomb shelters.

President Obama appealed for peace in a guest column for the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. He wrote: “All parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.”

But Hamas warned there would be no letup.

SAMI ABU ZUHRI, Spokesman, Hamas (through interpreter): The resistance is defending the Palestinian people. The occupation threats and crimes will not break our will. We will continue to defend our people against these crimes. We warn the occupation not to continue its crime against our people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: In turn, Israeli officials warned their offensive will go on until the rockets stop. They also left open the possibility of a ground invasion. Tanks and artillery have already massed along the Gaza border, and the Israeli government has authorized calling up 40,000 reservists.