Israel targets Hamas media operations in Gaza

IDF takes over radio frequencies of stations used by terror groups, broadcasts warnings to stay away from rocket launch sites and crews

Smoke rises after an Israeli air force strike in Gaza City on Saturday. (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)
Smoke rises after an Israeli air force strike in Gaza City on Saturday. (photo credit: AP/Hatem Moussa)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — The Israeli military widened its range of targets in the Gaza Strip on Sunday to include the media operations of the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers, sending its aircraft to attack two buildings used by both Hamas and foreign media outlets.

The Israeli military also appeared to take over the frequencies of the radio stations of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad militant group to broadcast a recorded, Arabic-language warning to the people of Gaza to stay away from Hamas installations and personnel.

“To the people of Gaza, Hamas is playing with fire and gambling with your fate,” said the message, which was broadcast every five minutes. “The Israel Defense Force is moving toward the second phase of its operation. For your safety, you should stay away from Hamas infrastructure and personnel.”

The message did not say what the “second phase” was, but thousands of Israeli troops are massed near the Gaza border, awaiting an order to invade should Israeli leaders decide on that course. Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon told Army Radio on Sunday that Israel has to be prepared to widen the operation if militants don’t back down.

The military spokesman’s office said it could not immediately confirm it was broadcasting this message, but said it has issued similar warnings over the radio several days ago.

The attack on the second media center shattered a lull in rocket attacks from Gaza that had taken hold the previous night and coincided with Egyptian-led efforts to negotiate an end to the five-day-old confrontation.

Bassem Madhoun, an employee of Dubai TV, said two missiles hit the 15th floor of the building where Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV studio is located. Rescue workers evacuated several people who had been wounded.

Building windows were blown out and glass shards and debris were scattered on the street below. Some of the journalists who had been inside the building at the time were taking cover in the entrance hallway.

Mohammed Shrafi, a Palestinian cameraman, said he was in the street filming when he was hit by shrapnel coming down from the building.

Asked why Israel was targeting media centers, he replied, “they want to keep us from telling the truth.”

Meanwhile, Gaza health official Ashraf al-Kidra reported that the Palestinian death toll from the operation had risen to 49 after a civilian died of wounds sustained in an Israeli airstrike. Earlier Sunday, he said two Gaza teenagers were killed when another building was hit.

Three Israeli civilians have also been killed since the confrontation began Wednesday.

Israel is reluctant to let up without signs a truce would hold.

Overnight, aircraft targeted dozens of underground rocket launchers, and a major Hamas training base and command center, the military said. It said it also attacked a communications antenna.

Israeli gunboats also fired on militant sites on the Gaza shore line, the military said in a statement, without elaborating.

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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