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A ball of fire follows an Israeli air strike on July 11 in the Gaza Strip. / AFP

GAZA CITY - As the Palestinian death toll rose, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to continue to target members of Hamas with air strikes in Gaza until rockets the militant group has been firing into Israel from the southern border halt.

"I will end it when our goals are realized. And the overriding goal is to restore the peace and quiet," Netanyahu said at a news conference.

At least 100 Palestinians have been killed in the past four days, the Palestinian Health Ministry said Friday.

Hamas' military wing said Friday it would fire rockets at Israel's Ben Gurion International Airport and warned airlines to avoid it, Reuters reported.

"The armed wing of the Hamas movement has decided to respond to the Israeli aggression, and we warn you against carrying out flights to Ben-Gurion airport, which will be one of our targets today because it also hosts a military air base," read a statement by the Islamist group's Izz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades.

Israel intensified its aerial bombardment of this densely populated coastal enclave Friday, causing widespread panic among residents.

Israel said its military has carried out more than 1,000 strikes against Gaza targets, bombarding the territory on average every five minutes. On Thursday, it said militants were firing a rocket toward Israel about every 10 minutes.

Some residents recalled the last conflict with Israel in 2012. "I survived in the second war then and now I am wondering if I will survive this one," said Israa Yasien, 22, of Gaza City. "I say stop killing civilians, women and children in Gaza - stop destroying our homes."

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Peter Lerner said the military was doing its utmost to prevent civilian casualties, calling inhabitants ahead of time to warn of imminent attacks. He said Israeli forces also fire "non-explosive munitions" at roofs as a warning, and look for people leaving before destroying the structure.

Yet such precautions have not spared civilian deaths, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the ministry, said that in a strike on a building in Khan Younis, eight members of one family were killed. Israeli gunboats also shelled Gaza's harbor, destroying most of the boats and ships, he said. Some 670 people have been injured since Tuesday.

"It's hard to decide who you're going to check up on first: Shall I check on this guy or that person? Shall I call my brother or my friend, aunt or uncle? Your cousin from your mom's side or father's side?" said Gaza resident Mutassim Awaja, 24, on Friday.

"Oh God they bombed that person's house? What is that person going to do now that his children have passed away? That's what we are thinking about in this time," Awaja said.

Israel has not reported any deaths from Hamas rockets. Israelis have been using bomb shelters and the military has deployed a defense system, the "Iron Dome," to intercept incoming rockets in flight.

The current fighting between Israel and Hamas, which governs Gaza, followed the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens in the West Bank and the apparent revenge murder of a Palestinian teen by Israeli extremists. Israel blamed the Israeli murders on Hamas, branded a terrorist group by the U.S. State Department, and rounded up hundreds of Palestinians in searching for the teens. Palestinians, inflamed by the searches and the Palestinian boy's murder, responded by rioting.

As the conflict escalated along Israel's southern border, militants in Lebanon fired several rockets at northern Israel Friday. The identity of the militants was not revealed. Most of southern Lebanon is controlled by the Iran-backed Shiite militia, Hezbollah, but there are also Palestinians in the region.

A rocket fired from Lebanon struck near Kibbutz Kfar Yuval without causing casualties or damage, Brig.-Gen. Moti Almoz, a spokesman for the Israeli Defense Forces, told Israel's Ynet News.

Lebanese security forces said five rockets were fired toward Israel, with some falling on Lebanese territory and one exploding at the launch site. An injured Lebanese suspect was arrested at a hospital, and security forces are searching for two Palestinians suspected of being involved, according to Beirut-based news site The Daily Star.

Hezbollah, which tangled with Israel in the past, is unlikely to do so now, says Tony Badran, an analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Hezbollah has rebuilt its arsenal of long-range missiles since 2006, when Israel dealt it a severe drubbing for thousands of rockets shot into northern Israel. Currently, however, many of Hezbollah's fighters are busy fighting to keep Syria's Bashar Assad in power in his three-year-old civil war.

"They don't want to risk a major conflagration at this particular point in time," Badran said.

Dorell reported from Washington, D.C. Contributing: Associated Press

Follow @OrenDorell



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