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Egypt’s new Islamist president, Mohamed Mursi, viewed by Hamas as a protector, led a chorus of denunciation of the Israeli strikes by allies of the Palestinians.
Mursi faces domestic pressure to act tough. But Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in U.S. military aid and looks to Washington for help with its ailing economy, constraining Mursi despite his need to show Egyptians that his policies differ from those of his U.S.-backed predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday urged Egypt to do more to help the Palestinians.
“We call upon the brothers in Egypt to take the measures that will deter this enemy,” the Hamas prime minister said.
The appeal poses a test of Mursi’s commitment to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which brought Mursi to power in an election after the downfall of pro-Western Hosni Mubarak, has called for a “Day of Rage” in Arab capitals on Friday. The Brotherhood is seen as the spiritual mentor of Hamas.
The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) said they had targeted over 450 “terror activity sites” in the Gaza Strip since Operation Pillar of Defence began with the assassination of Hamas’ top military commander on Wednesday by an Israeli missile.
Some 150 medium range rocket launching sites and ammunition dumps were targeted overnight, the IDF said.
“The sites that were targeted were positively identified by precise intelligence over the course of months,” it said. “The Gaza strip has been turned into a frontal base for Iran, forcing Israeli citizens to live under unbearable circumstances.”
Israeli bombing has not yet reached the saturation level seen before it last invaded Gaza in the first days of 2009, when armoured bulldozers and tanks flattened whole districts of the crowded enclave to make way for fire bases and open routes for infantry.