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The escalation in Gaza came in a week when Israel fired at Syrian artillery positions it said had fired into the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights amid a civil war in Syria that has brought renewed instability to neighbouring Lebanon.
Egypt, whose new Islamist government pledged to honour the 1979 peace treaty with Israel, condemned the raids as a threat to regional security, recalled its ambassador from Israel and called for an emergency session of the U.N. Security Council.
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak twice withdrew his ambassador, with no lasting effect. But Israel will be watching for signs of a more aggressive approach by the Islamist leader that could imperil their ties.
Mursi has said of the Palestinians that “our blood is their blood” and Egypt may not “accept what was accepted before”.
Russia called for an end to the raids. Arab League foreign ministers planned to meet on Saturday to discuss the crisis.
DOZENS OF TARGETS
A second Gaza war has loomed on the horizon for months as waves of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes grew increasingly more intense and frequent.
Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 began with a week of air attacks and shelling, followed by a land invasion of the blockaded coastal strip, sealed off at sea by the Israeli navy. Some 1,400 Palestinians were killed and 13 Israelis died.
The Israel Defence Forces said it had targeted dozens of Hamas’s medium range (up to 40km) underground rocket launch and infrastructure sites in Wednesday’s strikes.