Gaza bodycount: Palestinians 271 – Israelis 1

Israeli jets have launched a second day of air strikes against the Gaza Strip on Sunday. Despite international condemnation over what is being called a disproportional response, Israel is not excluding a ground offensive. According to Palestinian officials, 271 Palestinians have been killed so far for only one victim in Israel.
A Lebanese protestor holds a replica of a Qassam rocket in a demonstration of solidarity with Gaza in Beirut on Sunday. © Reuters

More than 270 Palestinians have been killed and more than 600 people wounded since Israel launched airstrikes against the Gaza Strip on Saturday in retaliation for Hamas firing Qassam rockets into Southern Israel.

The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion in Gaza. Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as children were leaving school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children.

Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" comes eight days after Israel's ceasefire with Hamas formally ended on Friday. During that time, Palestinian militant factions in Gaza have fired more than 170 missiles, rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians, Israel says, killing a 30-year-old resident of the southern Negev city of Netivot and wounding four.

Hamas, undeterred, kept firing rockets into Israel over the weekend, with one rocket striking close to the largest city in southern Israel, Ashdod, some 23 miles from Gaza—almost twice as deep into Israeli territory as ever before.

The Israeli offensive has sparked angry protests throughout the Arab world. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Vatican, the UN secretary-general and special Mideast envoy Tony Blair called for an immediate restoration of calm. The Arab League scheduled an emergency meeting Sunday to discuss the situation.

On Sunday, the United Nations Security Council after an emergency session urged an immediate halt to all military operations.


But the United States put the blame entirely on Hamas.

"The message from the United States is that Hamas is a terrorist organization that is firing rockets into Israel and they fired them onto their own people as well," Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said.

"The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement. "The cease-fire should be restored immediately. The United States calls on all concerned to address the urgent humanitarian needs of the innocent people of Gaza."

President-elect Barack Obama refrained from commenting. Brooke Anderson, Obama's national security spokeswoman, said Saturday that Obama "is closely monitoring global events, including the situation in Gaza, but there is one president at a time."

Hamas is branded a terror group by Israel and the West. It won free and fair elections in 2006 but it was shunned by Israel and the international community. In 2007, it took military control of the Gaza Strip in what is said was a preemptive strike against a planned coup by rival party Fatah.

On Dutch television, former prime minister Dries van Agt said the Israeli strikes come close to a "war crime." Van Agt pointed out that Israel on Saturday had already killed more than ten times more people than were killed by Hamas' Qassam rockets.

According to Israeli statistics, some 3,000 Qassam rockets have been fired into Israel in 2008, killing four people and wounding more than 270. Since Israel withdrew from Gaza in August 2005, Palestinian terrorist groups have fired more than 6,300 rockets and mortars at Israeli civilians, killing 10 and wounding more than 780. (The Israel Project)

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