Update: The IDF Spokesperson confirms a rocket hit outside Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM —  Air raid sirens sounded in  Jerusalem sending Israelis running for cover as it signals a possible rocket  attack aimed at Israel’s capital.

If verified, it would be the first time the holy city has ever been targeted  by rockets fired by Gaza militants.

Israeli media say the rocket fell north of Jerusalem, but authorities have  not confirmed the reports. In Gaza, Hamas militants said they had attacked  Jerusalem.

Egypt’s prime minister rushed to the aid of the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers  Friday in the midst of an Israeli offensive there, calling for an end to the  operation, as Palestinian rocket squads aimed at Tel Aviv for a second straight  day.

Sirens wailed across Israel’s main metropolis sending people running for  cover moments before an explosion was heard, but police said the rocket appeared  to have fallen into the sea.

Both the Israeli military and militants in the Gaza strip continued  relentless air strikes Friday as Israeli troops, tanks and armored personnel  carriers massed near the Palestinian territory.

The attacks, which Israel considers to be a major escalation, could draw an  Israeli ground invasion of Gaza closer as a spokeswoman confirms the Israeli  military called up called up 16,000 reservists ahead of possible Gaza  invasion.

Hopes of even a brief cease-fire were dashed after both sides accused the  other of violating a proposed cease-fire during a visit by the prime minister of  Egypt to Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had told Egypt that Israel was prepared to  suspend its military offensive in the Gaza Strip during Prime Minister Hisham  Kandil’s three-hour visit there Friday.

However, Israel later said Hamas did not honor the deal, saying rockets fired  from Gaza had hit several sites in southern Israel as Kandil was in the  enclave.

Israel strongly denied it had carried out any attacks from the time Kandil  entered Gaza, though Gaza militants claimed Israel had continued strikes during  the visit.

More indications emerged late Thursday that the conflict may erupt into an  all-out war, as at least 12 trucks were seen transporting Israeli tanks and  armored personnel carriers toward Gaza and buses carrying soldiers headed toward  the border area.

Israeli TV stations said a Gaza operation was expected on Friday, though  military officials said no decision had been made.

Early Friday, 85 missiles exploded within 45 minutes in Gaza City, sending  black pillars of smoke towering above the coastal strip’s largest city. The  military said it was targeting underground rocket-launching sites.

Fighting between the two sides escalated sharply Thursday with a first-ever  militant attack on the Tel Aviv area, menacing Israel’s heartland. No casualties  were reported, but three people died in the country’s rocket-scarred south when  a projectile slammed into an apartment building.

The death toll in the densely populated Palestinian territory climbed to 19,  including five children according to Palestinian health officials, as waves of  Israeli fighter planes and drones sent missiles hurtling down on suspected  weapons stores and rocket-launching sites.

One missile hit the Interior Ministry, a symbol of Hamas power.

The fighting has already widened the instability gripping a region in the  throes of war and regime upheavals. Most immediately, it is straining already  frayed relations with Egypt.

Israel and Hamas had largely observed an informal truce since Israel’s  devastating incursion into Gaza four years ago, but rocket fire and Israeli  airstrikes on militant operations didn’t halt entirely. The latest flare-up  exploded into major violence Wednesday when Israel assassinated Hamas’ military  chief, following up with a punishing air assault meant to cripple the militants’  ability to terrorize Israel with rockets.

The Israeli military reported early Friday that its aircraft had struck more  than 350 targets since the beginning of its operation against Hamas’ rocket  operations.

On Thursday, Israeli warplanes struck dozens of Hamas-linked targets, sending  loud booms echoing across the narrow Mediterranean coastal strip at regular  intervals, followed by gray columns of smoke. After nightfall, several  explosions shook Gaza City several minutes apart, a sign the strikes were not  letting up. The military said the targets were about 70 underground  rocket-launching sites.

The onslaught has not deterred the militants from striking back with more  than 400 rockets aimed at southern Israel. For the first time, they also  unleashed the most powerful weapons in their arsenal — Iranian-made Fajr-5  rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv.

The two rockets that struck closest to Tel Aviv appear to have landed in the  Mediterranean Sea, defense officials said, and another hit an open area on Tel  Aviv’s southern outskirts.

No injuries were reported, but the rocket fire — the first in the area from  Gaza — sowed panic in Tel Aviv and made the prospect of a ground incursion more  likely. The government later approved the mobilization of up to 30,000  reservists for a possible invasion.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the army was hitting Hamas  hard with what he called surgical strikes, and warned of a “significant  widening” of the Gaza operation. Israel will “continue to take whatever action  is necessary to defend our people,” said Netanyahu, who is up for re-election in  January.

“We will continue the attacks and we will increase the attacks, and I believe  we will obtain our objectives,” said Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, Israel’s military  chief.

An Israeli ground offensive could be costly to both sides. In the last Gaza  war, Israel devastated large areas of the territory, setting back Hamas’  fighting capabilities but also paying the price of increasing diplomatic  isolation because of a civilian death toll numbering in the hundreds.

The current round of fighting is reminiscent of the first days of that  three-week offensive against Hamas. Israel also caught Hamas off-guard then with  a barrage of missile strikes and threatened to follow up with a ground  offensive.

However, much has also changed since then.

Israel has improved its missile defense systems, but is facing a more heavily  armed Hamas. Israel estimates militants possess 12,000 rockets, including more  sophisticated weapons from Iran and from Libyan stockpiles plundered after the  fall of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime there last year.

Netanyahu, who has clashed even with his allies over the deadlock in Mideast  peace efforts, appears to have less diplomatic leeway than his predecessor, Ehud  Olmert, making a lengthy military offensive harder to sustain.

What’s more, regional alignments have changed dramatically since the last  Gaza war. Hamas has emerged from its political isolation as its parent movement,  the region-wide Muslim Brotherhood, rose to power in several countries in the  wake of last year’s Arab uprisings, particularly in Egypt.

Egypt recalled its ambassador to protest the Israeli offensive and has  ordered his prime minister to lead a senior delegation to Gaza on Friday in a  show of support for Hamas.

At the same time, while relations with Israel have cooled since the toppling  of longtime Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak, Morsi has not brought a radical  change in Egypt’s policy toward Israel. He has promised to abide by Egypt’s 1979  peace deal with Israel and his government has continued contacts with Israel  through its non-Brotherhood members.

Source: Fox News


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