Gaza bodycount redux: Palestinians 370 – Israelis 4

Israel has rejected international attempts at a truce, as Israeli planes continued a fourth day of air strikes against the Gaza Strip. At least 370 people have been killed since the assault began on Saturday. Israeli officials said the military blitz against Hamas targets is just the "first of several stages" of military action. MENASSAT has this news roundup.
gaza burial.jpg
A Palestinian boy watches the burial of 4-year-old Lama Hamdan and her sister Haya at Beit Hanoun cemetery in the northern Gaza Strip on Tuesday. © Reuters

BEIRUT, December 30, 2008 (MENASSAT) — Israeli leaders have warned that the attack on the Gaza Strip could continue for weeks, as Israel continued its fourth consecutive day of air strikes against the densely populated Palestinian territory.

Medical officials put Palestinian casualties since Saturday at 383 dead with more than 800 wounded. A United Nations agency said at least 62 of the dead were civilians. At least 20 people were killed in the latest raids on Tuesday, the Washington Post reported.

The Israeli bombing has destroyed huge swaths of already damaged Gaza infrastructure, including five ministerial buildings, a structure belonging to the Islamic University in Gaza City, pharmacies, and residential buildings.

Gaza siege

Hospitals have warned that they are unable to cope with the casualties because of the lack of basic medical supplies and the lack of electricity.

Israel imposed a blockade of the Strip after Hamas took military control of Gaza in June 2007—choking off access to humanitarian aid and causing a humanitarian crisis months before Israel's recent military offensive.

Meir Sheetrit, Israel's interior minister, has rejected a truce with Hamas and vowed to continue the war on Gaza until Palestinians stop firing rockets into Israel. Four Israeli citizens have been killed since the beginning of the offensive.

"There is no room for a ceasefire," Meir Sheetrit, Israel's interior minister, said. "The government is determined to remove the threat of [rocket] fire on the south…Therefore the Israeli army must not stop the operation before breaking the will of Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel."

Israeli media quoted Prime Minister Ehud Olmert telling President Shimon Peres that the Gaza operation was in "the first of a several stages."

Ground offensive

Israel's deputy Defense Minister, Matan Vilnai, said the military "has made preparations for some long weeks of action." Israel has doubled the number of troops on the Gaza border since Saturday and has deployed an artillery battery for the first time in a year, indicating preparations for a ground invasion.

Israel's Cabinet also approved a call up of 6,500 reserve soldiers.

"The ground forces are ready," Avital Leibovitz, an Israeli military spokeswoman, said on Tuesday. "The option exists. It is possible that we will apply it but for the moment we are only hitting from the air and the sea."

Meanwhile, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called Israel's military campaign "excessive" and condemned world leaders for not doing enough to end the violence.  On Monday, he called for a ceasefire.

"I think regional and international partners have not done enough. They should do more," Ban said in New York on Monday.

"They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasizing peaceful ways of resolving differences."

Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" comes eight days after Israel's ceasefire with Hamas formally ended on Friday.


'Until the necessary change is achieved...'
Posted on 29/12/2008 - 17:27
Photojournalist Eman Mohammed was lightly wounded during Saturday's Israeli air strikes, but this didn't stop her from continuing to document what was happening to her community. This is her story. em (20).jpg 

Gaza's blackest day
Posted on 28/12/2008 - 16:30
MENASSAT's Gaza correspondent Ola Madhoun recounts the horrors of the single bloodiest day in Gaza history since the occupation began in 1967. gaza.jpg