GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Israeli aircraft are targeting houses in the Gaza Strip as never before, firing precision missiles into family living rooms.
They have killed at least five known militants with the tactic, but they appear to have killed more civilians, including a growing number of women and children.
Israeli defense officials say their mission is not only to stop Hamas and other militant groups in the Gaza Strip from firing ever more powerful rockets deeper into Israel, as they did on Wednesday, but to weaken Hamas by killing its commanders.
But by targeting 60 houses in the past 48 hours, Israel’s risk of inflicting collateral damage has soared. The health ministry in Gaza reported Wednesday evening that 41 residents of the coastal enclave have been killed in Israeli strikes since the conflict began early Tuesday – and that 13 of the dead were 16 years old or younger. At least seven were women, and a handful were elderly, such as Naifeh Farjallah, who was 80.
At least 300 people, more than half of them women and children, were injured seriously enough to be taken to hospitals in the past two days, the health ministry said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday night that Hamas is to blame.
Hamas is thus committing a double war crime, he said. It targets Israeli civilians, while hiding behind civilians.
With the conflict intensifying and no sign of a cease-fire in sight, Palestinian militants fired rockets that flew well beyond Tel Aviv, Israel’s commercial capital, and landed in the country’s coastal high-tech corridor.
The major Mediterranean port city of Haifa, about 100 miles north of the Gaza border, ordered the opening of its public bomb shelters Wednesday after rockets hit towns to the south at Zichron Yaakov, Caesaria and Hadera. It was the first time that rockets from Gaza had flown that far into Israel.
The Israeli military said a Hamas rocket that struck Hadera, about 70 miles north of the Gaza border, was an M-302 class rocket, similar to ones found aboard a freighter the Israelis intercepted in the Red Sea in March. The ship was ferrying a load of Iranian-supplied arms to Gaza when it was stopped.
The group Human Rights Watch on Wednesday declared that since the Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel are indiscriminate and target civilian population centers, they amount to war crimes. The group also said: Israeli attacks targeting homes may amount to prohibited collective punishment.
Israeli F-16s, Apaches and armed drones have hit more than 500 targets in Gaza the past two days.