GAZA, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- Two waves of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza killed at least 225 people Saturday, Palestinian officials said.
About 80 planes and helicopters dropped more than 100 bombs, Ynetnews reported. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the response to rocket attacks from Gaza would be "expanded as needed."
"I don't want to mislead anyone, it won't be easy and it won't be short," Barak said.
Most of the dead were said to be Hamas security officers, including the police chief, and at least 600 people were wounded in what The New York Times said was the highest single-day toll in decades in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Citing a senior Israeli security official, the newspaper said the operation could expand to include ground forces.
The F-16 attacks were widespread. Videos showed fires, destroyed buildings, bodies and chaos in the streets, CNN reported.
"A series of Hamas targets and infrastructure facilities" has been attacked by Israeli military forces, an official Israeli statement said, adding the attacks were in retaliation for an escalation of rocket shelling by Hamas against Israeli civilians.
The initial airstrikes were followed by the firing of dozens of rockets into southern Israel, where officials declared a state of emergency and thousands of Israelis rushed to bomb shelters, the Times said.
Some of the rockets reached farther north into Israel than previous Hamas rockets had, the newspaper said. One man in Netivot was killed, becoming the first Israeli to die from the rocket fire that stepped up last week.
In a television broadcast, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the leader of the Kadima Party, said Israel was "doing what we need to do to defend our citizens."
Officials in Russia, Egypt, the European Union and the United Nations, condemned the use of force by Israel and also demanded that Hamas stop firing rockets into Israel. The Bush administration also demanded an end to the rocket fire, blaming Hamas for the eruption of violence.