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Israel declares border areas with Gaza closed military zone

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TEL AVIV, December 29 (RIA Novosti) - The Israeli army said on Monday it had closed the border areas adjacent to the Gaza Strip, cutting off access to journalists as it massed tanks in preparation for a possible ground assault.

Israel started large-scale airstrikes against targets in Gaza on Saturday in response to rocket and mortar fire by Palestinian militants on southern Israel. One Israeli was killed on Saturday when Palestinian armed groups responded to the Israeli attack with further rocket and mortar fire.

The area along the border has been designated "a closed military zone" due to the military operation in Gaza, which is already in its third day, an Israeli military spokeswoman said, adding that it was forbidden for anyone except local residents and emergency services employees to enter the region.

The border zone is under rocket and mortar attacks from the Palestinian side, and according to local witnesses, there is a military buildup of tanks in the area.

Tel Aviv has mobilized up to 6,500 reservists and deployed tanks on Gaza's edge in preparation for a possible ground offensive on the coastal enclave of 1.5 million Palestinians.

So far the Israeli operations have only included aerial attacks that have killed over 300 Palestinians since Saturday.

The International Red Cross said hospitals in the Gaza Strip had been overwhelmed and were unable to cope with the more than 1,400 wounded in the airstrikes.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council has called for an immediate halt to all military actions in Gaza. The non-binding statement adopted by the 15-member body calls for an immediate halt to all violence and urges the parties to immediately stop all military activity.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov urged on Sunday an end to military actions in the Gaza Strip and stressed the need to allow humanitarian aid into the enclave.

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