The Latest: Netanyahu: Israel to keep hitting Gaza militants

JERUSALEM (AP) — The Latest on the new escalation between Israel and Gaza (all times local):

11:25 a.m.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel is prepared to keep pounding Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza as long as rocket fire continues.

Netanyahu said on Wednesday at the start of a special Cabinet meeting that the Iranian-backed militant groups better internalize Israel’s determination before it is too late for them.

Netanyahu says militants have a choice: “Either stop these attacks or absorb more and more blows.”

Israeli airstrikes have killed 16 Palestinians since Tuesday, nearly all Islamic Jihad militants.

The Israeli military says more than 250 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities since the violence erupted following an Israeli airstrike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander accused of being the mastermind of attacks. It marks the heaviest round of fighting in months.

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10:20 a.m.

Israel’s new defense minister says the country will not hesitate to target more Gaza militants.

Naftali Bennett’s comments on Wednesday were his first as Israel’s new defense minister.

He says Israel is sending a clear message to its enemies: “Whoever plans to hard us during the day, will never be safe to make it through the night.”

The message comes a day after a pre-dawn strike killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander in Gaza and triggered hundreds of rockets fired toward Israel, the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group that’s even more hard-line than Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

Bennett took office on Tuesday to fortify Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political base. Bennett has long advocated tougher action against Palestinian militants.

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10:15 a.m.

Gaza’s Health Ministry says four more Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes across the coastal enclave.

The latest killings raised on Wednesday the overall death toll to 16, most of them militants.

Ten Palestinians were killed in Gaza when the latest round of violence erupted early on Tuesday after an Israeli airstrike hut the home of a senior Islamic Jihad commander, killing him alongside his wife.

The ministry also says 50 Palestinians have been wounded since Tuesday.

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9:05 a.m.

Gaza officials say new Israel airstrikes have killed two militants, raising the death toll to 12 since the latest escalation erupted.

The Islamic Jihad says two of its fighters were targeted Wednesday, as rocket fire into Israel resumed along with Israeli retaliation after a brief overnight lull. Nearly all the casualties were Islamic Jihad members.

The military says some 220 rockets have been fired since Tuesday, following an Israel strike that killed a senior Islamic Jihad commander.

It’s the heaviest fighting in months between Israel and the Iranian-backed militant group that’s even more hard-line than Gaza’s Hamas rulers.

But Hamas has yet to join the fray, a possible sign the fighting could be brief. With Gaza’s economy in tatters, Hamas appears to have little desire for another round of fighting.

Categories: International News