War threat looks over Gaza as Israel, Hamas trade fire

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A Hamas rocket killed three Israelis north of the Gaza Strip on Thursday, drawing the first blood from Israel as the Palestinian death toll rose to 15 in a military showdown lurching closer to allout war and an invasion of the enclave.

On the second day of an assault Israel said might culminate in a ground attack, its planes bombed targets in and around Gaza city, where tall buildings trembled. Plumes of smoke and dust furled into a sky laced with the vapour trails of outgoing rockets.

The sudden conflict, launched by Israel with the killing of Hamas’s military chief, pours oil on the fire of a Middle East already ablaze with two years of revolution and an out-of-control civil war in Syria. Palestinian allies , led by Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, denounced the Israeli offensive.

“The Israelis must realize that this aggression is unacceptable and would only lead to instability in the region and would negatively and greatly impact the security of the region,” Mursi said.

After watching powerlessly from the sidelines of the Arab Spring, Israel has been thrust to the centre of a volatile new world in which Islamist Hamas believes that Mursi and his newly dominant Muslim Brotherhood will be its protectors.

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