Israeli tanks and helicopter gunships went blazing into towns across the Gaza Strip yesterday, attacking Hamas targets and searching for its leaders as the war death toll passed 580.
Israeli troops fought militants around the back alleys of Gaza’s main city in the heaviest fighting of the 11-day-old offensive to halt Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.
On the diplomatic front, Arab countries pressed the case for a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s action, but the Jewish state rejected ceasefire calls by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and other leaders.
“Europe must open its eyes,” Israeli President Shimon Peres told an EU ministerial delegation that demanded a truce. “We are not in the business of public relations or improving our image. We are fighting against terror and we have every right to defend our citizens.”
Black smoke covered the districts of Gaza City and the edges of Deir al-Balah and al-Bureij where heavy fighting raged.
Israeli tanks backed by helicopter gunships also rolled into the southern town of Khan Yunis before dawn, to be met by return fire from Hamas and its allies.
Israeli strikes hit two UN-run schools, one crowded with refugees, killing at least five Palestinians, medics and UN officials said.
Two people were killed when an artillery shell slammed into a school in Khan Yunis and three in an air strike on a school in the Shati refugee camp in Gaza City.
About 12 Hamas rockets were fired over the border, one reaching 45km inside Israeli territory, lightly wounding a baby, the army said.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the campaign would continue until Israel wiped out Hamas’ ability to fire rockets into Israel.