On the third day of Israel's air assault on Gaza, the death toll rose to at least 315 while symbols of Hamas power were destroyed.
Meanwhile, Hamas's retaliation reached deeply into Israel, hitting the city of Ashdod, just 25 miles from Tel Aviv, for the first time.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the Knesset today that the "all-out war" would be "widened and deepened as is necessary."
Israel's airstrike campaign began midday Saturday in response to continued Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel. Attacks from Gaza have killed 17 people, including nine civilians, since the beginning of the year. Since Saturday, Israel has launched more than 300 airstrikes. At least 315 people had been killed by this morning, and an additional 1,400 have been wounded. According to the United Nations, at least 51 of the dead were civilians, including eight children. Targets included a building at Gaza's Islamic University, a security compound, and a house next to that of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh—all potent symbols of Hamas power.
Hamas's ability to strike back has been severely undermined, but it continued to launch rockets. One killed an Arab civilian in Ashkelon, the first time someone has been killed by rocket fire in the city.
Humanitarian groups say that food and medical supplies are becoming scarce and have called for the opening of Gaza's borders, saying the situation is becoming "desperate." In response, one of the border crossings was opened, with 40 trucks of supplies entering Gaza by midday today.
In some ways, the conflict seems similar to Israel's 2006 war with Lebanon, in which Israel invaded its neighbor after the Islamist group Hezbollah fired rockets at Israel and captured an Israeli soldier. Although a truce came about, the incident resulted in diplomatic fallout, and the conflict won Hezbollah a great deal of credit in the Arab world. Similarly, aggression against Hamas could bolster the group and give it precedence over the more pro-western Fatah movement among Palestinians.
As in 2006, the conflict in Gaza has sparked a diplomatic crisis. Syria is suspending its indirect peace talks with Israel, while Turkey called the assault a "crime against humanity." Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who is holding peace talks with Israel, condemned the assault as "sweeping Israeli aggression against Gaza." Thousands of Arabs have demonstrated against the raids, including more than 50,000 in Egypt on Sunday.
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