Israel ready to 'significantly expand' Gaza operation
Philip Williams in Jerusalem, wires
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his nation is ready to "significantly expand" its operation against militants in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, as the conflict entered its fifth day.
Mr Netanyahu's remarks came as thousands of Israeli troops backed by armoured vehicles massed along the border.
The movement of troops is fuelling fears that the Jewish state is poised to expand its relentless aerial bombing campaign into a ground operation.
"The Israel Defence Forces have attacked more than 1,000 terror targets in the Gaza Strip, and are continuing the operation at this very moment," he said.
"It deals significant blows to the weapons aimed towards Israel, the operators and the people who send them.
"We are extracting a heavy price from Hamas and the terror organisations. The army is prepared to significantly expand the operation.
Mr Netanyahu said he was holding ongoing talks with world leaders, "and we appreciate their understanding of Israel's right to self defence."
"The operation in the Gaza Strip is continuing, and we are preparing to expand it," he said.
Mr Netanyahu praised the "swift and impressive" response of reservists, 16,000 of whom have already been readied for duty in emergency orders.
"The soldiers are ready for any activity that could take place," he said at the cabinet meeting.
ABC correspondent Philip Williams is at Sderot, near the border with Gaza, and reports there was a lull in fighting during the night on Saturday (local time).
"There had been some hours where there had been no rockets and no retaliatory fire. Unfortunately that peace has been shattered," he said.
"We've seen missiles climbing into the sky, being intercepted by the Iron Dome system that the Israelis have put into place.
"In retaliation, we saw a large explosion over Gaza City just a short time ago.
"So sadly - unfortunately - the conflict continues."
BBC correspondent Jon Donnison reports from Gaza that two young children were killed in the shelling on Sunday morning.
"In the early hours of the morning, the Israeli navy began shelling Gaza from the sea. Artillery fire is generally less accurate than air strikes. There were those, too," he said.
"Israel says some of the targets included underground rocket launching sites and Hamas training areas.
"Health officials here say among those who died overnight [are] a one-year-old boy and a three-year-old girl.
"A tower block where many journalists are based was also hit.
"Several journalists were also injured, including one man who is said to have lost his leg."
US president Barack Obama has reiterated his nation's support for Israel to defend itself, calling for an end to the firing of missiles into Israel by militants inside Gaza.
"There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders," he said.
"We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself."
Efforts continue to broker a diplomatic solution to the situation, with Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi indicating that a ceasefire could be reached between the waring parties.
'Difficult to restrict casualties'
British foreign secretary William Hague has warned Israel that a ground invasion of the Gaza Strip would lose the nation much international sympathy and support.
Britain has said that Hamas bears the principal responsibility for the crisis due to perpetual rocket attacks on Israeli territory.
But Mr Hague told Sky News it was much more difficult to limit civilian casualties in a ground assault and it would threaten to prolong the conflict.
"That, of course, is a different proposition," he said.
"[Prime minister David Cameron] and I have both stressed to our Israeli counterparts that a ground invasion of Gaza would lose Israel a lot of the international support and sympathy that they have in this situation.
"It's much more difficult to restrict and avoid civilian casualties during a ground invasion and a large ground operation would threaten to prolong the conflict.
"So we have made our views very clear on that with Israel, just as we have made very clear our view that the barrage of rockets from Gaza onto southern Israel is an intolerable situation for the Israelis and it's not surprising they have responded to that.
"A ground invasion is much more difficult for the international community to sympathise with or support - including the United Kingdom."
Mr Hague said Britain would like to see an agreed ceasefire, with an end to the rocket attacks being an essential component of any peace deal.
Carr urges Israel to show restraint
November 19, 2012
Foreign Minister Bob Carr has again urged Israel to show restraint in its military offensive in Gaza, after Israeli strikes killed 23 Palestinians in the deadliest day in the conflict so far.
While condemning the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israel, Senator Carr said every effort must be made, on both sides, to protect civilians from further losses.
"I'm urging Israel to think very carefully about, first of all, the proportionality of its response and second to think about the prospect of a heavy burden being borne by civilians," he told ABC radio on Monday.
"But again, I do so from a starting point that unequivocally condemns the rocket attacks made by Hamas and associated terrorist entities on Israel from Gaza."
Israeli strikes on Sunday killed 23 Palestinians, including 14 women and children, in the bloodiest day of its Gaza bombing campaign, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.
Nine children, five of them babies and toddlers, and five women were among the victims in violence that raised the overall number of Gazans killed to 69 in around 100 hours of relentless Israeli air strikes.
The attacks came as diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodshed, which began on Wednesday and has also cost the lives of three Israelis and injured more than 50, according to medical sources.
On Sunday, nine people were injured by rockets in southern Israel, one of them seriously and two moderately.
"With the Middle East in some uncertainty, with a complex and serious political situation, there is a lot to be gained by restraint, even while the anger that Israelis feel is very understandable," Senator Carr said.
A Palestinian youth gestures at Israeli soldiers during clashes in the Jalama checkpoint in the West Bank near Jenin city, Saturday. – AFP