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Over 100 killed in Gaza as rockets fall on Israel

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ARON HELLER, AP
Sat Jul 12, 2:19 AM UTC

JERUSALEM (AP) — With the official Palestinian count of the dead passing 100, and rockets fired by militants striking Israel from the Gaza Strip and from Lebanon, Israel's prime minister on Friday brushed off a question about cease-fire efforts.

There is no end in sight to Israel's effort to halt militant rocket fire, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said.

"I will end it when our goals are realized," he said. "And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet."

Israel says it launched the offensive Tuesday in response to weeks of rocket fire from Gaza. At least 21 Palestinians were killed Friday, pushing the overall death toll to 106, including dozens of civilians, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 600 rockets at Israel.

One rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a gas station and set it ablaze earlier Friday in southern Israel, wounding three people, one seriously, and the army said the condition of a soldier wounded by rocket shrapnel on Thursday had worsened. But there have been no deaths on the Israeli side, in large part because of a new rocket-defense system that has intercepted at least 129 incoming projectiles.

Also Friday, the Lebanese military said militants fired three rockets into northern Israel. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire.

Israel's allies have backed the country's right to self-defense, but they have called for restraint. And the top U.N. human rights official said the air campaign may violate international laws prohibiting the targeting of civilians.

"We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes," said Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights.

Netanyahu said the Israeli airstrikes are aimed at military targets. He blamed Hamas for causing civilian casualties by hiding in residential areas and criticized the group for targeting Israeli population centers.

Israel has massed thousands of troops along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion. Netanyahu was evasive when asked about the odds of a ground operation, saying only: "We are weighing every possibility."

———

Associated Press writer Najib Jobain in Gaza City, Gaza Strip, contributed to this report.

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