Tel Aviv, Nov 15: Even as Israeli air strikes in the Gaza strip continued for a second day, three persons were killed when rockets fired by Hamas pounded a town in southern Israel.
Reports said that a rocket hit the building in Kiryat Malachi wherein the three were staying. Hamas was apparently retaliating to the precision bombing that claimed the life of its top military commander Ahmed Al-Jaabari yesterday. His car was blown up by the Israelis on a street in Gaza.
After 13 other Palestinians died in air strikes yesterday, an emergency meeting was convened at the United Nations but the Security Council merely asked Hamas and Israel to desist from further attacks against each other.
Describing the Israeli aerial assault as "wanton aggression on the Gaza Strip", Egypt recalled its ambassador from Israel. Qatar stressed that the Israelis must be punished. Iran too condemned Israel for killing civilians in the Gaza Strip and dubbed the Israeli offensive as "organised terrorism".
However, the United States defended its ally's right to "self defence". "There is no justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist organisations are employing against the people of Israel," the US State Department said.
In a statement, the White House cited President Barack Obama's phone conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
Israel has asked Hamas commanders to hide in safe places and warned that they could be shot dead like Ahmed Al-Jaabari. "We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead," the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tweeted.
Hamas responded that by assassinating Al-Jaabari, Israel had "committed a dangerous crime and broke all redlines". The escalation of violence in the Gaza strip is worrying especially because neither the IDF nor Hamas seem ready to take a step back. A full-blown war cannot be ruled out before Israelis go to the polls in Jan 2013.