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Israel Bombs 30 Gaza Homes             07/25 06:17

   Israeli aircraft struck 30 houses in the Gaza Strip early Friday, killing a 
leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group and two of his sons, as Israel's 
Security Cabinet was to meet later in the day to decide whether to expand its 
operation or consider ideas for a cease-fire.

   JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli aircraft struck 30 houses in the Gaza Strip early 
Friday, killing a leader of the militant Islamic Jihad group and two of his 
sons, as Israel's Security Cabinet was to meet later in the day to decide 
whether to expand its operation or consider ideas for a cease-fire.

   Israeli ground troops and Hamas gunmen fought intense battles in the north 
and center of the territory, Palestinian officials said.

   The Israeli military said it hit 45 sites in Gaza, including what it said 
was a Hamas military command post, while Gaza militants continued to fire 
rockets at Israel, with one hitting an empty house.

   On the 18th day of fighting, Israel's Security Cabinet was to convene later 
Friday to consider international cease-fire proposals, an Israeli defense 
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deliberations 
were taking place behind closed doors.

   One plan calls for a five-day humanitarian truce during which Israel and 
Hamas would negotiate new border arrangements for blockaded Gaza, said Hana 
Amireh, a senior Palestine Liberation Organization official in the West Bank, 
who is involved in cease-fire efforts.

   Hamas has said it will not halt fire without international guarantees that 
Egypt and Israel will open Gaza's border crossings and end their seven-year-old 
blockade. Israel and Egypt are reluctant to ease the blockade, fearing this 
will enable Hamas to tighten its grip on Gaza.

   Israeli media reported that the military also wants more time to continue 
destroying rocket sites and tunnels from Gaza into Israel that Hamas has used 
to launch attacks. The military says it has found 31 tunnels but only destroyed 
about one-third of them so far. Israel has mobilized over 65,000 reserve forces 
during the fighting.

   In Jerusalem, meanwhile, thousands of Israeli security forces were deployed 
for possible Palestinian protests after Friday prayers at a key Muslim holy 
site, said police spokeswoman Luba Samri.

   The night before, thousands of Palestinians protesting the Gaza fighting 
clashed with Israeli soldiers in the West Bank and in east Jerusalem in one of 
the biggest protests in the territory in years. One Palestinian was killed and 
dozens were wounded, according to Palestinian medical officials.

   In Gaza, the Palestinian death toll reached 817, after 115 were killed on 
Thursday in one of the deadliest days of fighting, said Ashraf al-Kidra, a 
Palestinian health official. More than 5,000 Palestinians have been wounded 
since July 8, he said.

   During the same period, 34 Israelis, among them 32 soldiers, and a Thai 
worker were killed.

   Early Friday, Israeli warplanes struck 30 houses throughout the Gaza Strip, 
including the home of Salah Hassanein, a leader of the military wing of Islamic 
Jihad, the second-largest militant group in Gaza after Hamas.

   Hassanein and two of his sons were killed in the strike, said Gaza police 
spokesman Ayman Batniji and al-Kidra. The Israeli army confirmed the strike.

   Over the past two weeks, Israeli aircraft have repeatedly hit homes of Hamas 
and Islamic Jihad leaders. Most had gone into hiding, but the strikes killed a 
leader of an Islamic Jihad rocket squad, a Hamas commander and a son of senior 
Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya, according to the Israeli military.

   Such strikes have also claimed the lives of a large number of civilians. A 
Gaza human rights group said earlier this week that close to 500 homes have 
been damaged or destroyed in direct hits from the air, and that more than 320 
people have been killed in their homes as a result of military strikes.

   Germany's two largest airlines said they are not yet resuming flights to 
Israel even though the European Aviation Safety Agency has lifted a 
recommendation that airlines refrain from flying to Tel Aviv airport.

   Air Berlin says flights to Tel Aviv remain suspended at least through midday 
Friday, while Lufthansa says all Friday flights to the airport have been 
canceled because of ongoing security concerns after a Gaza rocket landed about 
a mile away from Israel's international airport.

   Lufthansa's cancellations apply to subsidiaries Germanwings, Austrian 
Airlines, Swiss and Brussels Airlines as well.


(KA)


 
 
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