Hamas and Israel sustain fire despite missed targets
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Israel shelled Gaza for a fifth day Saturday, vowing no let-up in its air campaign on militants that has left more than 120 Palestinians dead. Two Israelis have been reported seriously injured.
FRANCE 24 reporters in Jerusalem and Gaza said heavy missile fire continued to criss-cross the skies, with both sides failing to hit their respective targets.
Our Jerusalem correspondent Irris Makler said the situation remained unchanged. "It is relentless Israeli airstrikes, relentless rocket fire from Hamas," she said. Local sources told her the city of Tel Aviv had not been under so much rocket fire since the creation of the state of Israel.
Speaking from Gaza City, FRANCE 24 reporter Gallagher Fenwick said the whole Palestinian enclave remained under heavy bombardment, with the Israeli navy appearing to carry out most hits from warships stationed off the coast.
Figures obtained by Fenwick from the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza indicated the death toll had topped 120 so far this week.
Yet he confirmed that Gaza's ruling Hamas group and its allies continued to fire dozens of missiles into Israel. "The first goal of the Israeli forces so far has not yet been achieved – putting a halt to rocket attacks from Gaza," Fenwick noted.
He added that Hamas and the militant Islamist group, Islamic Jihad, seemed to have improved their tactics, probably triggering their rockets remotely. "That's why none of their leaders have been killed, they were prepared and have gone underground," he said.
"Surprises for the Israeli army"
"Palestinians in Gaza are telling me that these factions have more surprises for the Israeli army, especially if it goes forward with that ground invasion that is being talked about," Fenwick added.
Speaking at a press conference on Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did not rule out a land offensive. “We are weighing every possibility,” he said.
Diplomatic efforts to stop the violence saw US President Barack Obama telephoning Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Washington offering to use its relationships in the Middle East to bring about a return to calm.
But Netanyahu ignored calls for restraint. "No international pressure will prevent us from striking, with all force, against the terrorist organisation which calls for our destruction," he said.
$50,000 per missile intercept
Yet FRANCE 24's Irris Makler noted that Israel's sophisticated weapons and intelligence systems had so far avoided deaths as a result of rocket attacks. Two Israelis have been seriously injured since violence flared up earlier this week.
"Israel does not necessarily need to carry out a ground invasion because it can protect its citizens with very expensive technology – each missile intercept costs about $50,000," Makler said in reference to the so-called Iron Dome system.
The defence shield is capable of destroying rockets before they hit the ground and Israel had focused it on missiles targeting large population centres, intercepting around one in five.
The military imbalance is compounded by additional intelligence capacity allowing Israel to intercept militants' phone calls in Gaza and to carry out aerial surveillance, Makler said.
Meanwhile, Hamas boosted its own weapons arsenal in recent years with Iranian-made rockets smuggled through underground passages between the Gaza Strip and Egypt, but Cairo's new military rulers have now shut them down.
"Since the tunnels were blocked recently, Hamas have been making their own rockets, which are long-range but not precision-guided. They can aim for Jerusalem but they don't know whether it will land on the Israeli parliament, on the Al-Aqsa mosque or in an empty field," Makler said.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)