GAZA CITY — Around 100 people have now died in Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, according to the Palestinian healthy ministry. The mounting death toll comes as President Obama said the U.S. is willing to negotiate a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas.
Four days into its offensive, Israel continued to intensify its aerial bombardment of the densely populated coastal enclave Friday, causing widespread panic among residents.
Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Palestinian health ministry, said that in a single strike to a building in Khan Younis eight members of a single family were killed. Israeli gunboats also shelled Gaza's harbor, destroying most of the boats and ships, he said. Some 670 people have been injured since Tuesday.
"It's hard to decide who you're going to check up on first: Shall I check on this guy or that person? Shall I call my brother or my friend, aunt or uncle? Your cousin from your mom's side or father's side?" said Gaza resident Mutassim Awaja, 24, on Friday.
"Oh God they bombed that person's house? What is that person going to do now that his children have passed away? That's what we are thinking about in this time," Awaja said.
Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the military was doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, calling inhabitants ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks. He said Israeli forces also fire "non-explosive munitions" at roofs as a warning and look for people to leave before destroying a structure.
In separate developments Friday, Lebanon's state-run news agency said two rockets were fired from Lebanon toward Israel. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the strikes, which prompted Israel to retaliate with artillery fire toward the source of the firing.
Southern Lebanon is a stronghold of the Shiite militant group Hezbollah, which has battled Israel numerous times. However, recent fire from Lebanon has been blamed on radical Palestinian factions in the area and Hezbollah has not been involved in the ongoing offensive. Lerner said it was unclear whether the new front was "symbolic or something more substantial."
Rocket fire from Gaza also struck a gas station in Ashdod on Friday, seriously injuring one person, in what looked to be the most serious attack in Israel in the four days of fighting. Israel has not reported any deaths of its citizens since both sides intensified their aerial campaigns this week.
Israel said its military has carried out more than 1,000 strikes against Gaza targets, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes. On Thursday, it said that militants were firing a rocket toward Israel at a rate of about every ten minutes.