Israel steps up strikes from air and sea, leaving at least 44 people reportedly dead and many more injured in Gaza, as Hamas fires rockets deep into Israel.

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The Israeli government threatened a lengthy military offensive against the Islamist militant group Hamas, as it pounded the Gaza Strip with air and naval strikes, and sent tanks to the Gaza border on Wednesday. The Israeli military said it had attacked 550 Hamas sites, including 60 rocket launchers, over the past two days.

Late on Tuesday, air-raid sirens sounded in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem as Hamas rockets reached deeper into Israel than ever before. Israel's Iron Dome interceptor shot down Hamas rockets, and there were no reports of fatalities.

Below: footage from Israel and Gaza - Israeli wedding guests flee Hamas rocket attack, Hamas commandoes infiltrate southern Israel, and rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

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And both sides continued the attack into the day on Wednesday. In the longest-range attack since Tuesday, when Israel stepped up its offensive, a rocket hit Zichron Yaakov, a town 115 kilometres north of Gaza. Channel Two television reported that one person was slightly injured.

Palestinian medical officials said that at least 30 civilians, including six children, were among the 38 Palestinian dead in two days of fighting, and 230 people have been wounded.

Israeli officials said the rockets fired by Hamas could lead to a ground invasion, and Benjamin Netanyahu's government is said to have approved the call-up of an extra 40,000 reservists.

In the densely populated Gaza Strip, explosions echoed day and night, shaking buildings and sending up plumes of smoke. On the Israeli side, at least two people were wounded, medics said.

On the ground as Israel bombs Gaza: Khaled Abu Ghali, a journalist living in Rafah, Gaza, tells Channel 4 News that the recent bombing is the worst he has ever experienced, with 10 or 12 strikes every 30 seconds at the most intense.

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