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Israeli jets continue pounding besieged Gaza
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Over 280 Palestinians killed as Israel warns of ground offensive, calls up 6,500 reserve soldiers.
GAZA CITY - Israel warned on Sunday it could send ground troops into Gaza as its warplanes continued pounding Gaza where more than 280 Palestinians have been killed in just 24 hours.

Hamas responded by firing rockets the deepest yet into Israel, with one hitting without causing casualties not far from Ashdod, home to Israel's second-largest port some 30 kilometres (18 miles) north of Gaza, medics said.

In the latest international call for the violence to end, the United Nations Security Council met in emergency session and urged an immediate halt to all military operations.

But Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak vowed to expand the mammoth bombing campaign.

"The IDF (Israeli Defence Forces) will expand and deepen its operations in Gaza as much as necessary," he told reporters before a cabinet meeting.

"If it's necessary to deploy ground forces to defend our citizens, we will do so," his spokesman quoted him as saying earlier.

The Israeli cabinet gave the green light to, a senior official told reporters after the meeting.

Israeli television said the army had begun concentrating ground forces near the tiny Palestinian enclave, where medics said at least 282 people were killed and more than 600 wounded since early on Saturday.

Warplanes continued to pound the impoverished and overcrowded territory of 1.5 million, where many streets were deserted and schools and shops stayed shut.

Businesses in the occupied West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem observed a strike in protest at the onslaught.

Hamas remained defiant.

Its exiled leader Khaled Meshaal called in Damascus for a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

The Israeli bombardment, one of the bloodiest 24-hour periods in the 60-year Israeli-Palestinian conflict and one of the largest military operations in Gaza since Israel captured it in the 1967 war, has sparked massive international concern.

In New York, the UN Security Council called for an "immediate halt to all violence" and on the parties "to stop immediately all military activities," without mentioning Israel or Hamas by name.

Egypt, which had brokered a six-month Israel-Hamas truce that expired on December 19, said it was trying to negotiate a new ceasefire.

A meeting of Arab League foreign ministers set for Cairo on Wednesday should agree on a plan to deal with the crisis, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit told reporters.

Source >  Middle East Online | dec 28

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