Hostilities only seem to be escalating as the Israeli offensive against Gaza enters a fourth day. Early this morning, a rocket from Gaza ignited a tanker at a gas station in southern Israel, injuring three people in the most serious hit on Israel so far. For the first time in this offensive, rockets from southern Lebanon were fired at Israel today as well, the AP reports. An Israeli military spokesman says Israel fired about 25 artillery shells in response. At least 550 rockets have been fired from Gaza this week, though Israel says its Iron Dome defense system has stopped about a quarter of them. In other developments:
- President Obama says the US is ready to broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, reports the BBC. The White House says that in a call to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama "expressed concern about the risk of further escalation and emphasized the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm." France and Russia also made cease-fire pleas, and the State Department says John Kerry has urged Egyptian leaders to help calm the situation.
- A Kerry spokeswoman says "nobody wants to see a ground invasion," but some 20,000 Israeli reservists have been mobilized and Israeli leaders have hinted that the first ground assault on Gaza since 2009 could be imminent. "So far the battle is progressing as planned, but we can expect further stages in future," Netanyahu said. "Up to now, we have hit Hamas and the terror organizations hard and as the battle continues we will increase strikes at them."
- In Gaza, which has been hit by more than 1,100 strikes, medical officials say at least 70 civilians, including children, are among at least 95 people killed since the offensive began, Reuters reports. Hamas says most of the casualties have been in at least 200 houses Israel has bombed this week.
- As rockets and missiles fly, questions are being raised about Israel's actions in the weeks after the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, who were later found dead, the New York Times finds. It has emerged that Israel's security services banned the media from reporting that gunshots had been heard on a distress call made by one of the kidnapped teens, and some Israeli commentators accuse authorities of giving the public false hope the teens were alive in a calculated effort to build support for its crackdown on Hamas.
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