Israel’s aerial bombardment of Gaza continued for a fifth day on Saturday with a strike on a mosque said to be concealing a weapons cache one of the dozens of targets bombed, as the death toll in the coastal strip rose to 122.
Military spokesman Moti Almoz said Israel would press ahead with its air campaign for the “next 24 hours” and that there were “many” targets left.
He told Israel Radio the Army was also preparing for the “next stages” of Operation Protective Edge — a potential ground offensive.
A mosque was deliberately bombed for the first time since Israel launched the military operation on Tuesday, in response to rocket attacks from Gaza.
Al-Farouq mosque, located in a refugee camp, was all but reduced to rubble.
A weapons cache was hid within the mosque, military spokesman Peter Lerner charged.
He accused Hamas along with other armed groups, of taking cover behind religious sites and putting Palestinian civilians in harm’s way. As Israel faced growing criticism over the number of people killed in the densely populated enclave, Mr. Almoz insisted the military was trying “diligently” to avoid civilian casualties.
But two handicapped girls died and five people were critically wounded when a local society for the disabled was struck in northern Gaza. The body of a 16-year-old was recovered from the rubble on Saturday.
A spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said the military was checking the circumstances of the incident. Palestinian emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qedra said two-third of the dead are civilians, many of them women and children. More than 920 have been injured, he said, and hospitals were running out of medical supplies to treat them.
Over 60 targets bombed
Leaders in former ally Turkey and the Egyptian Foreign Ministry have condemned Israel’s use of force of Gaza. The UN High Commission for Human Rights has expressed concern over the high number of civilian causalities.
Israel said it bombed over 60 targets overnight, bringing the total hit since Tuesday to well over 1,000 targets.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the rate of nightly and daily bombings is double that of an eight—day offensive on Gaza in 2012.
He said Israel would not stop until Palestinian rocket attacks stop, and vowed not to cave to international pressure.