The Israeli offensive against the Gaza Strip has claimed 100 Palestinian lives, nearly half of them women and children, medics said on Friday, as Israel moved three infantry brigades to its border with the coastal enclave in preparation for a possible ground offensive.
The build-up is to be strengthened by one or two further brigades in the coming days, said Israel military spokesman Peter Lerner.
Military officials stressed that any decision on a ground operation would be taken by the political leadership. There are no indications a ceasefire deal is currently being negotiated.
The US ambassador to Tel Aviv, Dan Shapiro, told Army Radio that “no one wants a ground operation, and we have the desire to see Hamas stop firing rockets and missiles. In that case, Israel has the full American backing.”
Rocket fire deep into Israeli territory has continued, forcing the main Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv to temporarily suspend operations in the morning, but flights have since resumed.
Hamas said it fired four M-75 missiles, the group’s newer and longer reaching rockets, at the airport.
And in a sign that the conflict may be spreading, missiles were fired into Israeli territory from Lebanon for the first time since Israel launched operation Protective Edge in response to rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip.
Ashraf al-Kidra, spokesman for emergency services in the Gaza Strip, said at least 670 people in the salient have been injured since the beginning of the Israeli offensive. Most of the injured were civilians, including women and children, he said.
The United Nations said the “targeting and destruction of residential buildings in Gaza continues to be the main cause of civilian casualties,” adding that 340 homes have been destroyed since Israel’s military operation began on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross said attacks against civilians are against international law, while condemning an incident, in which Palestinian medics were injured.
“A dozen staff and volunteers were wounded and three ambulances destroyed” in a strike that hit the Palestine Red Crescent branch in Jabaliya, northern Gaza, the ICRC said.