Israel vowed yesterday to sweep Hamas from power in Gaza, pledging “all-out” war and promising to smash every building linked to the Islamist movement.
Hamas continued to lob rockets at the Jewish state as Israeli forces carried out a third day of attacks on the Gaza Strip, broadening the offensive to include naval as well as aerial bombardments. But as Britain and other nations called for an end to the violence, there were signs that Hamas was feeling the strain with claims that its leader-in-exile was ready to renew a ceasefire that expired ten days ago.
Yesterday’s targets in Gaza included a university building, the Interior Ministry and the office of Ismail Haniya, the Hamas political leader. The Palestinian death toll reached 345, with 1,550 wounded, in just three days. Four Israelis have been killed by Palestinian rockets.
“The goal of the operation is to topple Hamas,” Haim Ramon, the deputy to Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister, said. It was the first time since it launched its blistering offensive that Israel has openly stated that regime change is its ultimate goal. “We will stop firing immediately if someone takes the responsibility of this government, anyone but Hamas,” Mr Ramon said. “We are favourable to any other government to take the place of Hamas.”
It was not clear which party could take control if Israel succeeds in removing the Islamists.