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Death Toll Rises To 120 In Israeli Airstrikes On Gaza

NPR icon by Scott Neuman
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Ezz Zanoon/APA Images

At least 120 people in the Gaza Strip have been killed in Israeli airstrikes as both sides exchange fire across the tense border. NPR's Ari Shapiro reports that Israeli tanks and reserve troops are poised for a possible ground invasion.

Israel launched a campaign five days ago to halt the relentless Hamas rocket attacks on its citizens. The Associated Press says: "While there have been no fatalities in Israel, Gaza Health Ministry spokesman Ashraf al-Kidra said overnight attacks raised the death toll there to over 120, with more than 920 wounded.

Dozens of the dead are civilians, though the exact breakdown remains unclear."

An Israeli airstrike hit a pair of mosques, which the Israeli military says were concealing a cache of rockets. A Hamas spokesman in Doha, Qatar, said the bombing of the mosques shows that Israel is "barbaric" and "hostile to Islam."

In a statement on Friday, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said international pressure will not deter the campaign to stop the Hamas attacks.

"I will end it when our goals are realized," Netanyahu said, "and the overriding goal is to restore peace and quiet."

On the possibility of a ground invasion of Gaza, Netanyahu said: "We are weighing all possibilities and preparing for all possibilities."

The AP says:

"In Gaza, residents remain torn between fear for their safety and sadness over the loss of a normal Ramadan, usually a time of deep spirituality leavened by great joy and celebration."

"'The situation is very bad and not usual at all,' housewife Umm Al-Abed said. 'People in the month of Ramadan used to visit each other and go to buy things that are only sold during Ramadan. But now because of the atmosphere of war, people are afraid to go out and there are no salaries for anyone.'"

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, referring to "deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes," said Israel may be in violation of international prohibitions against targeting civilians.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said Friday that the U.S. stands ready to try to broker an end to the fighting.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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