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Israel pounds Gaza for 4th day, rejecting truce appeals
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Smoke rises after an Israel air strike in Gaza December 30, 2008. [Xinhuanet.com]

With Israeli forces gearing up for a possible ground incursion into the Gaza Strip, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said the military has "made preparations for long weeks of action."

"We are ready for a prolonged conflict and for weeks of combat," Vilnai said in broadcast remarks.

After a meeting overnight Monday with IDF Chief of General Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and other leaders of the security establishment, Olmert stressed that Israel would strike Hamas with an "iron fist" but would treat Gaza civilians with "kid gloves" in its humanitarian effort, local daily Jerusalem Post reported.

During the meeting, security officials said the IDF had given telephone warnings to about 90,000 people living near Hamas facilities targeted by the Israeli air force. They stressed that the sites were bombed only after civilians had left their homes.

Israel let about 100 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies from Jordan, Turkey and international aid groups into Gaza via the Kerem Shalom border crossing, said the report, adding that five new ambulances donated by Turkey were allowed into the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Israel launched massive air raids against the Gaza Strip on Saturday, while Hamas shelled Israeli territory after a six-month ceasefire that ended Dec. 19.

(Xinhua News Agency December 31, 2008)

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