A major Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip on Saturday killed at least 18 Palestinians, including at least seven civilians, Doctor Muawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza emergency services, said. A baby and two teenagers were among the dead on Saturday.
Witnesses said the most serious fighting in weeks erupted on Saturday between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli soldiers backed by helicopters that had entered the coastal territory.
A total of 53 Palestinians, including six-month and 13-month old boys, have been killed in four days of Israeli raids and air strikes in the Gaza Strip that the Jewish state launched after the killing of one Israeli on Wednesday.
Eight militants and four civilians were killed and at least 30 people wounded, said hospital staff and the Islamist Hamas movement, which seized control of Gaza last June by routing the more secular forces of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. The Israeli army confirmed its forces were operating in northern Gaza and Israel Army Radio reported five soldiers were "lightly or moderately wounded" in the fighting.
An army spokeswoman said about 20 rockets were fired into Israel on Saturday, including three Soviet-designed Grad missiles, which are more powerful and accurate than improvised, locally produced Qassams.
Israeli leaders said they may "have no choice" but to launch a broader offensive in the Gaza Strip if Palestinian militants do not stop rocket attacks on Israel. (AFP & Reuters)
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