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Israel to continue Gaza offensive
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Israel on Wednesday decided to continue the ongoing operation in the Gaza Strip, reported local news service Ynet.

The decision came after a vote of Israel's National Security Cabinet, said the report, adding that it showed Israel believes that the objectives of the offensive have not yet been achieved.

In light of the go-ahead, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is expected to push ahead the ground incursion with the assistance of air and navy forces in the coming days, said the report.

It is still unknown whether the decision meant an escalation of the current operation to its third phase, which would possibly bring tens of thousands of reserve soldiers into the Hamas-ruled strip in order to tighten the rope around Hamas' neck.

Local daily The Jerusalem Post quoted senior defense officials as saying that the IDF has been prepared to deploy in the entire coastal strip, where over 600 have been killed and over 2,700 others wounded so far.

Rockets from Gaza continued to pummel southern Israel on Wednesday, a situation the Jewish state vowed to end by this operation. Four Israelis died in such attacks beside six soldiers killed in the battlefield since Israel launched the operation codenamed Cast Lead on Dec. 27.

Earlier in the day, the IDF held its operation for three hours to allow Gaza residents to get basic supplies, part of a so-called "humanitarian corridor" plan aimed to ease the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Fighting resumed after the respite.

The green light for the operation coincided with the one for dialogues with Egypt over its ceasefire proposal. Israel is expected to dispatch a delegation to Cairo in the coming days.

However, the Jewish state stressed that it has not yet accepted the Egyptian initiative, which is cosponsored by France and has been endorsed by the United States, Israel's staunch ally.

(Xinhua News Agency January 8, 2009)

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