The Washington Times on October 24, 2012, published an AP report on Gaza militants pummeling southern Israel with dozens of rockets and mortars on October 24, and Israeli airstrikes killed two Palestinians in a sharp escalation of violence following a landmark visit to the coastal territory by the leader of Qatar. Excerpts below:

Hostilities have been simmering for weeks, but erupted into barrages from Gaza immediately after the Qatari ruler left the territory on October 23.

Israeli leaders vowed that their country would not reconcile itself to attacks from the coastal strip.

“We didn’t ask for this escalation and didn’t initiate it,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after touring a missile defense battery. “But if it continues, we are prepared to embark on a far more extensive and penetrating operation.”

Asked if Israel was considering a ground operation in the Palestinian territory, Defense Minister Ehud Barak told Israel Radio that “if we need a ground operation, there will be a ground operation. We will do whatever necessary to stop this wave” of violence.

The Israeli military said 72 rockets and mortars landed in Israel by midafternoon, and that Israeli aircraft struck Gaza four times.

Hamas‘ military wing and a smaller militant faction claimed responsibility for the rocket and mortar fire.

The smaller group — the Popular Resistance Committees — said one of its members died in one of the airstrikes.

The deaths brought to four the number of Palestinians who have died in strikes on Gaza in the past two days.

Two foreign workers in Israel were critically wounded in the rocket fire, and several militants were injured in the Israeli air attacks, Israeli and Palestinian health officials said.

Crossings between Gaza and Israel were shut down after the exchanges of fire.

The Qatari emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, had urged the Iranian-backed Hamas to do everything possible to avoid violence with Israel.

But the emir’s visit and promise of $400 million in aid bolstered Hamas‘ flagging popularity and might have encouraged it to join the latest round of hostilities, which previously had involved smaller militant groups.


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