Israel rules out ceasefire with Hamas
GAZA - Israel yesterday rejected any truce with Hamas Islamists and said it was ready for "long weeks of action" on the fourth day of the fiercest air offensive in the Gaza Strip in decades.
As Israeli armoured vehicles and troops were massed along the border for a possible invasion, Israeli warplanes pressed on with strikes, killing 12 Palestinians, including a pair of sisters, aged 10 and 12, in attacks on Hamas targets.
Medical officers put the total Palestinian death toll since Israel launched its offensive on Saturday at 348 and more than 800 wounded. A UN agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians.
The latest Israeli attacks came hours after rockets fired by Gaza militants killed two Israelis, including a soldier and a civilian.
With six weeks to go to an election expected to be won by the rightwing Likud party, Israel's centrist government says the offensive aims to put a stop to the rockets.
Israeli Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said "there is no room for a ceasefire" with Hamas before the threat of rocket fire had been removed. "The Israeli army must not stop the operation before breaking the will of Hamas to fire at Israel," he told Israel Radio.
The Israeli military "has made preparations for long weeks of action", added Matan Vilnai, a deputy defence minister.
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum has urged Palestinians to use "all available means" against Israel, including suicide bombings. - Reuters