Israeli strikes on Gaza killed 13 people Tuesday and wounded at least 90, the emergency services said, as the military began an aerial campaign against militants in the Strip.
In the worst strike, a missile slammed into a house in the southern city of Khan Yunis after people had reportedly formed a human shield to protect it, killing seven people.
Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra told AFP two people were among the dead and that another 25 people were wounded.
Witnesses said an Israeli drone fired a warning flare, prompting relatives and neighbours to gather at the house as a human shield and that, shortly afterwards, an F-16 warplane fired a missile that levelled the building.
Earlier, three people were killed when a missile struck a car in the Daraj neighbourhood in the centre of Gaza City, he said, correcting an earlier toll of four fatalities.
Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV showed gruesome images of charred body parts being loaded onto ambulance stretchers.
Family members said all of them were Hamas militants, identifying one as Mohammed Shaaban, 32, a senior commander in Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades. He was also head of the group’s naval operations, they said.
Israel’s army confirmed targeting Shaaban, describing him as “a senior Hamas operative.”
In a separate strike near Nusseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, another man was killed, with witnesses telling AFP he was also a Hamas militant.
The deaths came hours after Israel announced the start of Operation Protective Edge, a campaign aimed at stamping out rocket fire on southern Israel and destroying Hamas’s military infrastructure.
Army figures show that militants have fired 130 rockets at southern Israel since midnight without causing any casualties, while the air force struck 150 “terror targets” in Gaza.
The Israeli military mobilised more reserve soldiers to back up regular forces for a possible escalation of fighting in the Gaza Strip, a spokesman said, without giving a number, reported Reuters.
The spokesman, Lieutenant-Colonel Peter Lerner, said the troops were being called up out of a total allotment of 40,000 reservists authorised earlier by the Israeli security cabinet. The military has said it has already mobilised 1,500 reserve troops.
source: ahram online