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From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Israel begins firing artillery shells into Gaza
The Israel Defense Forces began firing artillery shells into open areas inside the Gaza Strip on Saturday, for the first time since the offensive began a week ago, heralding a possible escalation in more than a week of fighting.
Palestinian witnesses said the barrage caused a large explosion in Gaza City as well as a series of blasts stitching the nearby frontier with Israel.
There was no immediate word of casualties. Channel 10 television quoted a witness as saying that Israel was shelling targets along the entire length of the shared border.
Israel has massed ground forces on the Gaza frontier in anticipation of a decision to send troops into the Hamas-ruled territory.
Simultaneously, Israel Air Force warplanes stepped up airstrikes on Gaza, bombing the main road that runs throughout the strip in three different spots, making travel from one side of the Strip to the other close to impossible.
Meanwhile, Palestinian officials in Gaza reported Saturday evening that 10 people had been killed in an IAF bombing of a mosque in Beit Lahiya.
The air force struck more than 40 Hamas targets over the course of Saturday, killing the third senior Hamas official since Israel's aerial assault began.