JERUSALEM Palestinian militants fired a rocket aimed at Jerusalem on Friday, setting off air raid sirens throughout the city and opening a new front in three days of fierce fighting between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
The Israeli campaign has been limited to airstrikes so far. But military officials say they are considering expanding it to a ground campaign.
Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a military spokesman, said the military had called 16,000 reservists to duty Friday as it geared up for a possible ground offensive.
She said the army had authority to draft an additional 14,000 soldiers. She would not say where the troops were deployed.
As air-raid sirens went off in Jerusalem, witnesses said they saw a stream of smoke in Mevasseret Zion, a Jerusalem suburb.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the rocket landed in an open area near Gush Ezion, a collection of Jewish settlements in the West Bank southeast of the city.
An attack on Israel’s self-declared capital marks a major escalation by Gaza militants, both for its symbolism and its distance from the Palestinian territory. Located roughly 50 miles away from the Gaza border, Jerusalem had been thought to be beyond the range of Gaza rocket squads.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s prime minister rushed to the aid of the Gaza Strip’s Hamas rulers Friday in the midst of an Israeli offensive there, calling for an end to the operation.
Palestinian militants took advantage of an Israeli halt in fire during the visit to rain rockets on Israel, including a strike on the bustling metropolis of Tel Aviv for a second straight day.
Three days of fierce fighting between Israel and Gaza militants has widened the instability gripping the region, straining already frayed Israel-Egypt relations.
The Islamist Cairo government recalled its ambassador in protest and dispatched Prime Minister Hesham Kandil to the Palestinian territory Friday in a show of solidarity with Hamas.
Israel, meanwhile, showed signs it was preparing to widen the offensive. After days of battering militant targets with airstrikes, Israeli forces were massing along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion.
The operation began Wednesday with the assassination of Hamas’ military chief and dozens of airstrikes on rocket launching sites.
While Israel claims to have inflicted heavy damage, militants have fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, bringing the entire region to a standstill.
At least 21 Palestinians and three Israelis have been killed, according to medical officials on both sides.
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