Gaza militants kill 3 Israelis with rocket fire

By Josef Federman

Associated Press

Published: Thursday, Nov. 15 2012 12:00 a.m. MST

The military said it destroyed dozens of the militants' most potent rockets — the Iranian-made Fajr, which is capable of striking Israel's Tel Aviv heartland — as well as shorter-range rockets. In all, the military estimated Hamas had 10,000 rockets and mortars in its arsenal before the military operation began.

Earlier this week, Israeli defense officials warned they were considering resuming a controversial practice of assassinating senior militants. Wednesday's killing of Jabari was an indication they were serious.

Hamas, meanwhile, has complained in recent months that Israel was trying to "set the rules" on the battlefield. Officials said the group stepped up attacks on Israel in recent weeks to put Israel on the defensive.

Hamas, which has ruled Gaza since seizing control of the territory five years ago, has also drawn criticism that it was going soft as it focused its efforts on building its government instead of battling Israel. Hamas, formed a quarter of a century ago as a resistance movement committed to Israel's destruction, has killed hundreds of Israelis over the years.

Hamas accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of launching Wednesday's operation to win votes in the Jan. 22 parliamentary election. But major Israeli parties, including the dovish opposition, all lined up behind Netanyahu.

In Washington, the United States lined up behind Israel. "We support Israel's right to defend itself, and we encourage Israel to continue to take every effort to avoid civilian casualties," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

President Barack Obama spoke with Netanyahu and the two men agreed Hamas needs to stop its attacks on Israel to allow tensions to ease, the White House said.

Obama spoke separately to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, given Egypt's central role in preserving regional security, the White House said. The two men agreed on the need to de-escalate the conflict as quickly as possible.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and urged both sides to respect international humanitarian law.

The Israeli operation drew new condemnations on Thursday from Turkey and Iran, Muslim countries that both have good relations with Hamas.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul "strongly" condemned Israel and criticized Washington for supporting Israel. Turkey's once close ties with Israel have collapsed over an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound Turkish aid ship in 2010.

Iran, a major backer of Hamas, called the Israeli operation "organized terrorism." Foreign Ministry spokesman Ramin Mehmanparast urged the world to cut ties with Israel.

Meanwhile, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas cut short a trip to Europe to deal with the crisis. Abbas wrapped up meetings in Switzerland before rushing back to his base in the West Bank, said Palestinian official Saeb Erekat. He had been scheduled to go to France.

Abbas lost control of Gaza to Hamas militants in 2007 and now governs only the West Bank. Still, he claims to be president of all Palestinians.

Federman reported from Jerusalem. Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Gaza City, and Aron Heller and Lauren E. Bohn in Jerusalem also contributed to this report.

Try out the new DeseretNews.com design!
try beta learn more
Get The Deseret News Everywhere