Gaza militants kill 3 Israelis with rocket fire in second day of fighting

  • A rocket launched by Palestinians militants toward Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)A rocket launched by Palestinians militants toward Israel makes its way from the northern Gaza Strip, seen from the Israel Gaza Border, southern Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Israeli security personnel take cover in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)Israeli security personnel take cover in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)
  • Zaka volunteers and rescue personnel carry the plastic-wrapped body of a victim from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)Zaka volunteers and rescue personnel carry the plastic-wrapped body of a victim from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)
  • Zaka volunteers clean bloodstains from a pillow and a baby toy in a children's room at an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)Zaka volunteers clean bloodstains from a pillow and a baby toy in a children's room at an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)
  • Zaka volunteers clean bloodstains from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)Zaka volunteers clean bloodstains from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)
  • A Zaka volunteer cleans bloodstains from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)A Zaka volunteer cleans bloodstains from an apartment in a building in Kiryat Malachi, Israel, that was hit on Nov. 15, 2012, by a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip. Militants in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed three Israelis in a rocket attack liable to deepen a bruising Israeli air, naval and artillery offensive against Palestinian rocket squads. The casualties were the first in Israel since it launched its operation the previous day with the assassination of Hamas' top military commander. (Associated Press)
  • ** FILE ** In this photo made available by the Israeli Defense Ministry, Defense minister Ehud Barak (center), Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (right) and head of Israel's Southern Command Tal Tousso attend a briefing in Beersheba, Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012.  (Associated Press/Ariel Hermoni, Israeli Defense Ministry)** FILE ** In this photo made available by the Israeli Defense Ministry, Defense minister Ehud Barak (center), Chief of Staff Benny Gantz (right) and head of Israel's Southern CommandTal Tousso attend a briefing in Beersheba, Israel, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press/Ariel Hermoni, Israeli Defense Ministry)
  • An Israel war plane drops a bomb over the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)An Israel war plane drops a bomb over the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Explosion and smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)Explosion and smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • A Palestinian youth walks Nov. 15, 2012, through a damaged apartment in Gaza City hit in an Israeli strike. (Associated Press)A Palestinian youth walks Nov. 15, 2012, through a damaged apartment in Gaza City hit in an Israeli strike. (Associated Press)
  • Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Hamas member Mohammad Al Hams during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. Israel barraged the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and shelling the previous day and killed the Hamas military chief in a targeted strike, launching a campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Islamic militants. (Associated Press)Palestinian mourners gather around the body of Hamas member Mohammad Al Hams during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. Israel barraged the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and shelling the previous day and killed the Hamas military chief in a targeted strike, launching a campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Islamic militants. (Associated Press)
  • Palestinian medics help a wounded woman at her family house Nov. 15, 2012, following an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (Associated Press)Palestinian medics help a wounded woman at her family house Nov. 15, 2012, following an Israeli air strike in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (Associated Press)
  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in an Israeli strike the previous day, during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Jabari, who was killed in an Israeli strike the previous day, during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Palestinian women react during the funeral of Hisham Al Galban, a Hamas militant killed in an Israeli attack, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)Palestinian women react during the funeral of Hisham Al Galban, a Hamas militant killed in an Israeli attack, in Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • The parents of 11-month-old Palestinian baby Ahmed Masharawi, killed in an Israeli strike, hold his body during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)The parents of 11-month-old Palestinian baby Ahmed Masharawi, killed in an Israeli strike, hold his body during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • A Palestinian demonstrator runs through a cloud of tear gas during clashes against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)A Palestinian demonstrator runs through a cloud of tear gas during clashes against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli strike the previous day, during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. Israel barraged the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and shelling and killed the Hamas military chief in a targeted strike, launching a campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Islamic militants. (Associated Press)Palestinian mourners carry the body of Hamas' top military commander Ahmed Jabari, killed in an Israeli strike the previous day, during his funeral in Gaza City on Nov. 15, 2012. Israel barraged the Gaza Strip with airstrikes and shelling and killed the Hamas military chief in a targeted strike, launching a campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks from Islamic militants. (Associated Press)
  • Explosion and smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)Explosion and smoke rises following an Israeli air strike in the northern Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel near the Israel-Gaza border on Nov. 15, 2012. (Associated Press)
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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Militants in the Gaza Strip pounded southern Israel with rocket fire on Thursday, killing three people as the Israeli military pressed forward with a second day of intense air raids and naval attacks on militant targets. With Israel threatening to invade the Palestinian territory, the heaviest fighting between Israel and Hamas in four years showed no signs of letting up.

The fighting, which began Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas’ military chief, brought life to a standstill on both sides of the border. Gaza’s streets were mostly empty as the Israeli air force continued to strike targets. Residents across southern Israel remained huddled indoors or close to home, ordered by authorities to remain close to a network of public bomb shelters.

The deaths in the southern Israeli town of Kiryat Malachi were the first in Israel since it launched its operation and raised the prospects of even fiercer Israeli retaliation. Israel has been systematically targeting rocket stores in Gaza and claims to have taken out dozens of launchers. Israeli leaders have said they are prepared to broaden the operation to a ground invasion if necessary, though there were no signs of extraordinary troop movements along the border.

“The military will continue acting to establish deterrence against Hamas and to return the calm,” Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during a tour of southern Israel. He praised citizens for coping with the “tough moments to come.”

Following the assassination of Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday, Israeli tanks, gunboats and aircraft struck dozens of sites across Gaza. A total of 15 Palestinians, including seven civilians, have been killed and more than 100 people wounded, according to Palestinian medical officials. Among the dead were three children.

Explosions rocked Gaza throughout the day on Thursday as well. Few in the territory’s largest urban area, Gaza City, came out following the call for dawn prayers, and the only vehicles plying the streets were ambulances and media cars.

Most Gazans remained in their homes, following developments on Hamas-run TV and local radio stations. Many also provided updates on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, providing news about airstrikes and rocket launches. Others shared prayers and called for militants to stand tough against Israel.

“My little 4-year-old boy keeps asking me to pray with him every 10 minutes, saying, ‘Mama. Let’s pray together to Allah in order to be safe,’” one woman, Ghadeer Ahmad, wrote on her Facebook account.

While streets were quiet, bakeries and groceries remained open. No food shortages were reported, and electricity, which suffers frequent outages even during normal times, remained sporadic. Many families keep home generators to maintain power.

“I am trying to calm my children when they hear the sound of explosions,” said Zainab Nimr, a 33-year-old mother of three. “We have enough food and water for four days, so I asked my husband to go out and get extra supplies. No one knows when this will end.”

Thousands of people, including top Hamas officials, braved the threats to attend the funeral for Jabari, who had long topped Israel’s most-wanted list for his role in deadly attacks and building up Hamas’ formidable arsenal. Dozens of residents stood solemnly outside their homes or on their balconies as the procession walked by.

“We want to kill in the name of God,” chanted mourners as angry gunmen fired automatic weapons into the air. Hundreds of people raised their index fingers in the air, chanting, “God is great.”

“This crime will not weaken us. It will make us stronger and more determined to continue the path of jihad and resistance,” Hamas lawmaker Mushir al-Masri said in a eulogy. “The enemy opened the battle and shall bear the consequences.”

Israel said Jabari’s assassination was the start of a broader offensive, launched after days of rocket fire from the coastal territory. It was Israel’s most intense attack on Gaza since a full-scale invasion four years ago, also in response to rocket fire.

Despite the similarities, much has changed since then. Hamas has beefed up its arsenal with more powerful and far-reaching missiles. Israel, meanwhile, has deployed a first-of-its-kind system that shoots down incoming rockets. Officials say the “Iron Dome” system is believed to have a roughly 80 percent success rate.

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