Palestinian Deaths Near 100, Hamas Promises "Long Battle" With Israel

Nearly 100 Palestinians have been killed this week in an ongoing Israeli offensive aimed at stopping rocket fire from Hamas. Hamas leaders promised a "long battle" with Israel on Friday: "We have prepared ourselves for a very long battle, not for a week or 10 days, as some have said, but for many long weeks," the group said in a statement.

In a move that could escalate the conflict, Lebanese armed forces reported Friday that a small group of radicals in Lebanon fired rockets into Israel. Israel fired back, but no one was harmed. The Lebanese army says these radicals are not affiliated with Hezbollah, the militant group Israel warred with in 2006.

In Gaza, Israel has escalated its offensive on Hamas, killing Palestinian civilians in the process. At least 21 children have been killed so far, including four toddlers. The New York Times reports on the deaths from last night:

Of the eight Palestinians who were killed overnight in Israeli airstrikes, five of them from a family whose home was struck in the southern city of Rafah. Officials in Gaza said the other fatalities included a 10-year-old girl, who was killed in a strike on another house in Rafah; a Palestinian man killed in Israeli artillery fire there; and a pharmacist in Gaza City who was killed in an airstrike that targeted an apartment.

Israeli forces say they warn civilians before striking homes of suspected Hamas militants, but a witness to last night's attack on the family of five told the Times that Israel gave no advance warning.

Hamas says it will continue to attack Israel, and Israel currently has no exit strategy. The UN Security Council met yesterday to discuss the conflict, and Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told representatives from Israel and Palestine:

Today, we face the risk of an all-out escalation in Israel and Gaza, with the threat of a ground offensive still palpable — and preventable only if Hamas stops rocket firing.

According to the Times, neither representative heeded this "call for calm."

[Image via AP]