Overnight airstrikes hit Hamas targets in Gaza, including a house suspected of being the residence of a Hamas member in Khan Younis and a nearby cafeteria; 15 people were killed, Gaza authorities said. The Israeli military said three Islamic Jihad members suspected of manufacturing rockets were killed in another strike.
Although Israeli authorities say care is taken to avoid civilian casualties, and the focus of the bombardment is Hamas members and tunnels used for Hamas attacks, the relief agency Defense for Children International said 15 children were killed in airstrikes Tuesday and Wednesday.
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, Israeli military spokesman, said 750 locations in Gaza had been struck in the airstrikes thus far, although a ground operation, involving at least 20,000 reservists, is being prepared.
"What we are trying to do for now is to take full advantage of the aerial assault," Lerner said. "The ground option needs to be the last option and only if absolutely necessary."
At least 350 rockets have been fired into Israel since Tuesday by Gaza militant groups, with continued attacks Thursday. One rocket was intercepted by the Israeli defense system, known as the Iron Dome, as it passed over Tel Aviv, and three others struck communities in the Negev desert and near the town of Netivot.