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Israel bombs Interior Ministry building in Gaza City

Nov. 16, 2012 7:14 A.M. (Updated: Nov. 17, 2012 3:34 A.M.)
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Israel bombed the civil affairs department of the Ministry of Interior in Gaza City early Friday morning after a night of heavy raids across the Gaza Strip.

Emergency crews extinguished a huge blaze at the ministry in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood as ambulances transferred wounded Palestinians from residential buildings in the area.

Ministry officials reassured citizens that more than 90 percent of personal files and papers were saved electronically and could still be accessed. The building contained 70 years of records of the Palestinian civil registry, the ministry said.

Israeli shelling of security and civil headquarters will not discourage the government from working, the ministry added.

Israel will stop its offensive action in the Gaza Strip during a three-hour visit by the Egyptian prime minister to the territory on Friday, a senior Israeli government official said.

Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Kandil is expected to visit the Gaza Strip in an unprecedented display of solidarity with Palestinians embroiled in a new escalation of conflict with Israel.

"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to an Egyptian request to cease all offensive operations in Gaza during the visit of the Egyptian prime minister there this morning, which is supposed to last for about three hours," the official said.

"In the answer that has been forwarded to Egyptians, we've said that the (Israeli military) will cease fire on the condition that there won't be fire from Gaza into Israel during that period," the official said.

Army: 150 sites hit overnight

Israel bombed Gaza City over 40 times overnight Thursday. Rafah, Khan Younis, Deir al-Balah and Bureij refugee camp were also hit, injuring at least 12 people.

Israel's military said in a statement that it had targeted 150 rocket launching sites and ammunition storage facilities overnight.

The Khan Younis home of al-Qassam Brigades commander Mohammad Sanour was hit at dawn, injuring two people. Sanour was not home at the time, local sources said.

The Israeli military said its aircraft targeted "a central terror activity site in the southern Gaza strip in order to harm the command and control posts of the Hamas terror organization."

Shortly before midnight on Thursday, an Israeli airstrike killed two teenage brothers and a five-year-old boy in Beit Hanoun, the health ministry said, raising the death toll in Gaza to 19.

Tareq Jamal Nasser, 16, and Oday Jamal Nasser, 14, and Fares al-Bassiouni were killed. Six were injured in the explosion, including three children.

The aerial bombardment set off earth-shaking thuds and fireballs in the dark sky and were met with screeches of Palestinian rocket fire launched from the outskirts of Gaza City towards southern Israel.

One of the sites targeted by Israel was an electricity generator that supplied the house of Hamas's prime minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. It was unclear whether he was at home at the time.

Witnesses told Ma'an violent explosions across Gaza City's Sheikh Radwan neighborhood set a high-rise building ablaze, with flames lighting Gaza's sky. Several injured, including women, were brought to Gaza's Al-Shifa hospital, a Ma'an correspondent said.

Witnesses said Israeli planes hit the marine police headquarters in Deir al-Balah, which has been destroyed repeatedly in Israeli airstrikes.

Israel says it has targeted 450 "terror activity sites" in the Gaza Strip since it launched "Operation Pillar of Cloud" on Wednesday, after assassinating the head of the al-Qassam Brigades Ahmad al-Jaabari in Gaza City.

The al-Qassam Brigades says it has fired 527 projectiles at Israeli military sites and across the border as far as Tel Aviv since its leader was assassinated.

Israel says over 300 rockets have been fired at Israeli communities but that rocket fire significantly decreased overnight Thursday. The Iron Dome defense shield has intercepted over 130 projectiles, the army says.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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