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Israeli Ground Forces Enter Gaza In Escalation - UPDATES

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Author Topic: Israeli Ground Forces Enter Gaza In Escalation - UPDATES  (Read 211 times)
Bianca
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« Reply #15 on: January 04, 2009, 10:24:38 am »










                                       Worldwide alarm at Israeli ground offensive
     





Jan. 4, 2009
PARIS
(AFP)

– Israel's tank and troop assault on the Gaza Strip unleashed worldwide cries of alarm on Sunday, but Israel won heavyweight US backing and moves for an immediate ceasefire foundered at the United Nations.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown echoed grave European concerns when he said the ground offensive was a "very dangerous moment" in the conflict, and he called for increased efforts to rapidly secure a ceasefire.

The offensive was condemned across the Middle East, with Egypt saying the UN Security Council's silence on Israel's eight-day campaign of air strikes had effectively given Israel "a green light" for the ground assault.

Asian nations expressed alarm, too, with Pakistan and China calling for an immediate end to the assault and Muslims in Indonesia urging war against the Jewish state.

But in New York, the Security Council failed to agree on a statement calling for a ceasefire after the United States argued that a return to the situation that existed before Israel's ground invasion was unacceptable.

US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff said after the four-hour sitting that Washington believed it was important that the region "not return to the status quo" that had allowed Hamas militants to fire rockets into Israel.

"The efforts we are making internationally are designed to establish a sustainable, durable ceasefire that's respected by all," Wolff said. "And that means no more rocket attacks. It means no more smuggling of arms."

As thousands of Israeli soldiers and scores of tanks pushed into Gaza Sunday, the British prime minister said assurances needed to be given to both the Israelis and Hamas to secure a ceasefire.

"I think everybody around the world is expressing grave concerns. What we've got to do almost immediately is to work harder than we've done for an immediate ceasefire," Brown said on BBC television.

"I can see the Gaza issues for the Palestinians -- that they need humanitarian aid -- but the Israelis must have some assurance that there are no rocket attacks coming into Israel," he said.

"So first we need an immediate ceasefire, and that includes a stopping of the rockets into Israel."

Russia dispatched President Dmitry Medvedev's special envoy for the Middle East, Alexander Saltanov, to the region, hoping it could help bring about a ceasefire.

"The new dangerous escalation in the armed conflict after the start of the Israeli land operation in Gaza is a matter of extreme concern," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

"It is essential, without delay, to put an end to the suffering of the civilian population on both sides, to stop the bloodshed and secure a mutual ceasefire."

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said European nations stand ready to contribute international monitors to help keep the peace.

"The ceasefire has to be a ceasefire complied (with) by everybody and be clearly maintained," Solana told the BBC.

At least 23 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since Israel's ground offensive began on Saturday, medics said Sunday.

In total, more than 485 Palestinians have died, including 80 children, with more than 2,500 wounded according to Gaza medics since Israeli military operations began on December 27.

Rocket fire from Gaza over the same period has killed four Israelis.

European reaction to the ground offensive revealed a sharp difference in tone from the official US line.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the decision to send troops into Gaza was a "dangerous military escalation".

The European Union's new Czech presidency said Israel's ground operation was more "defensive than offensive", although it said Israel did not have the right to take military actions "which largely affect civilians".

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said Israel's incursion into the impoverished territory was in "brazen defiance" of international calls to end the offensive -- and he blamed the Security Council for failing to act.

"The Security Council's silence and its failure to take a decision to stop Israel's aggression since it began was interpreted by Israel as a green light," he said.

In Asia, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the Israeli offensive was "unjustified" and called for an immediate halt to the fighting.

Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso warned that Israel's ground offensive would only aggravate difficulties for all concerned.

"I'm very worried that the dispatch of ground troops will make the situation much worse," he said.

There was outrage in Africa as well.

Senegalese Pesident Abdoulaye Wade, who also holds the presidency of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, called the Israeli ground offensive a "flagrant violation of the most elementary principles of international law".
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« Reply #16 on: January 04, 2009, 10:27:42 am »









                                    Israel says world understands its actions in Gaza






Jan. 4, 2009
PARIS
(AFP)

– The international community understands Israel's reasons for launching an offensive in the Gaza Strip that will continue until Hamas halts rocket attacks, an Israeli government spokesman said Sunday.

"There is on an international level much understanding of the fact that we are exercising our legitimate right to self-defence against attacks perpetrated from the territory of Gaza by Hamas terrorists," said Avi Pazner in an interview to French radio Europe 1.

The spokesman noted that the new Czech presidency of the European Union had described Israel's ground operation as "more defensive than offensive" although France condemned the land offensive launched Saturday.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek made the comment but Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg later added: "Even the indisputable right of the state to defend itself does not allow actions which largely affect civilians."

Israel launched a ground offensive in Gaza after a week of air strikes to halt rocket attacks by Hamas, the Palestinian group that seized control of the territory in June 2007.

More than 485 Palestinians have died and 2,400 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign on December 27, according to medics in Gaza.

"We do intend to continue this operation until we manage to silence these missiles and rockets and completely change the security situation in the south of our country," added Pazner.

The UN Security Council failed to agree a statement calling for a ceasefire despite nearly four hours of closed-door consultations late on Saturday.

The Palestinian Authority's envoy to the European Union, Leila Shahid, separately said Europe's credibility was on the line in the drive to reach a ceasefire and suggested the 27-nation EU should consider sanctions.

"There must be an international initiative and the visit of the European delegation and of President Sarkozy offers the best prospect" for this, Shahid told Europe 1.

"Europe's credibility is on the line," she said.

An EU delegation comprised of the French, Swedish and Czech foreign ministers was due in Egypt on Sunday for talks on ending the violence ahead of French President Nicolas Sarkozy's mission to the region.

"You are not going to convince me that the EU cannot demand a ceasefire from Israel," said Shahid. "It is obvious that we need a tougher stance and if needed, sanctions."

Sarkozy will travel to the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Monday for talks with President Hosni Mubarak before heading to Ramallah to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas.

The French president will hold talks in Jerusalem later Monday with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert whose government has rejected a French call for a 48-hour humanitarian truce.

On Tuesday, he travels to Syria for talks with President Bashar al-Assad and to Lebanon to visit French troops serving in a UN force in south Lebanon.
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« Reply #17 on: January 04, 2009, 10:32:08 am »










                                                       Gaza death toll passes 500




     

GAZA CITY
(AFP)
Jan. 4, 2009

– At least 500 Palestinians have died in Israel's nine-day offensive on Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip,
medics said on Sunday
« Last Edit: January 04, 2009, 10:35:31 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #18 on: January 04, 2009, 08:48:29 pm »



Palestinians carry a boy into Shifa hospital in Gaza City, wounded during the Israeli army operation …

GAZA CITY,









                                                       Fear, shortages for civilians caught in Gaza fight
     





IBRAHIM BARZAK and
BEN HUBBARD,
DEC 4, 2009
AP
GAZA CITY

– Anas Mansour sleeps in his street clothes in a south Gaza refugee camp, with his ID in his pocket so he can flee quickly if fighting gets worse. In Gaza City, the 10 members of the Karam family huddle in their hallway at night, kept awake by artillery fire booming outside.

And in the central Gaza refugee camp of Nusseirat, Munir Najar said he only had another day's worth of flour to feed his family of seven, but ventured out to find streets deserted and shops closed.

"There's not a loaf of bread to be found," said Najar, 43.

As Israeli's offensive moved from pinpointed airstrikes to artillery shelling and ground fighting, Gaza's civilians are increasingly exposed to the violence. Since the ground assault began, 64 Palestinian civilians have been killed, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a Health Ministry official.

More than 512 Palestinians have been killed since the operation began Dec. 27, at least 100 of them civilians, say Palestinian and U.N. officials. In the same period, three Israeli civilians and two soldiers have been killed.

The International Committee of the Red Cross called Sunday on Israel and Hamas to stop killing and wounding civilians, citing international humanitarian law.

Israel says the offensive aims to stop Hamas from firing rockets at the Jewish state and its airstrikes target only Hamas installations and leaders, but bombs have also destroyed or damaged adjacent houses.

Lubna Karam, of Gaza City, said airstrikes had shattered her home's living room windows days before, letting cold air pour in. She said she feels under threat at all times, and her family has taken to sleeping in the hallway for safety.

"We keep hearing the sounds of airplanes and we don't know if we'll live until tomorrow or not," said Karam, 28.

Mansour, 21, of the Rafah refugee camp on the Gaza-Egypt border, described watching his neighbor pile a mattress and blankets on a donkey cart to flee, but hadn't decided if he'd do the same. "Where can we go? It's all the same," Mansour said.

The latest fighting came at the end of an ever-tightening blockade of the seaside territory, imposed after the violent Hamas takeover of Gaza in June 2007. The borders were virtually sealed in the last two months, leading to shortages of cooking gas and basic foodstuffs.

Israel says there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, noting that it has continued to allow supplies into the territory.

But the Israeli human rights group Gisha said Israeli airstrikes have left Gaza's water and sewage system on the verge of collapse. About one-third of the 1.4 million residents are cut off from the water supply and 75 percent of Gaza is currently without electricity, including the territory's largest hospital, Shifa, the report said. Shifa has backup generators.

The Palestinian telephone company Paltel warned that Gaza's communications network has been extensively damaged by the Israeli strikes and is on the verge of collapse. The company added that three of its technicians had been killed and many injured in the fighting while trying to repair the network.

Adding to the shortages, last week's bombing further battered Gaza's infrastructure, making many feel that the situation they thought couldn't get any worse had done so.

"When there was a siege, we kept talking about a catastrophe," said Hatem Shurrab, 24, of Gaza City. "But then the airstrikes started, and now we don't even know what word to use. There's no word in the dictionary that can describe the situation we are in."

Hamas leaders have remained out of sight, but some Gazans remain ardent in their support, saying Israeli violence will rally Gazans around the group.

"They say Hamas is hiding in civilian places, but it's not that: We are Hamas," said Umm Bara, 25, of the Jebaliyah refugee camp. She gave only a nickname because many of her relatives are militants, she said. "After this (shelling), I'm so angry. My blood is Hamas and I want it to explode in their faces."

Others said life in Gaza inured them to violence and that they're trying to go on with their lives.

Even as Israeli troops operated two kilometers (one mile) from Sulafa Odeh's home in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahiya, the 25-year-old translator walked through an orchard to a neighbor's house to see if it had power so she could plug in her laptop.

Odeh said the ground-shaking explosions frightened her, but that she refused to stay indoors.

"It's a problem: This is strange, and frightening, but we have gotten used to it," Odeh said. "Unfortunately, we are used to this life."

___




Hubbard reported from Ramallah.
Additional reporting by Diaa Hadid in Jerusalem.
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« Reply #19 on: January 04, 2009, 09:02:42 pm »










                                 Israeli army moves on Gaza City as war toll passes 510





     
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Mai Yaghi
Dec. 4, 2009
GAZA CITY,
(AFP)

– Tens of thousands of Israeli troops battled Hamas fighters in Gaza early on Monday amid tank, artillery and air strikes, as the death toll from the offensive to end rocket attacks passed 510.

Israeli forces moved into the fringes of Gaza City as families fled or hid on the second night of combat.

The Israeli government fought off intense international pressure over its biggest military operation since its 2006 war in Lebanon, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy due in the region, as well as Russian and EU delegations.

At least 70 Palestinians have been killed since the ground offensive began on Saturday night, Gaza medics said.

Israel said one soldier was killed by a mortar shell and another 19 were wounded, bringing the total to 49 since the beginning of the incursion.

Columns of troops and tanks surrounded Gaza City and fighting was reported in outer districts.

Witnesses said tanks had cut off Gaza City and the far north from the rest of the strip, which would prevent the entry of arms, supplies and fighters from the south.

An AFP photographer said warplanes were also bombing targets in the southern border town of Rafah, where hundreds of tunnels are used to smuggle in supplies from Egypt.

The army declined to confirm or deny the reports.

Fierce clashes were also reported around the northern towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanun and Jabaliya.

Moawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza medical emergency services, told AFP the number of Palestinians killed since the Israeli operation was launched on December 27 was now 512, including 87 children.

Five members of the same family died when a tank shell hit their car near Gaza City, emergency services said.

Three ambulance workers were killed when they were hit by a missile as they helped wounded victims of the conflict, medics said.

Aid groups said the offensive had aggravated a humanitarian crisis for the population, who have no electricity, no water and now face dire food shortages. Hospitals were only running on backup generators.

International efforts to halt the conflict sought new impetus after the UN Security Council failed to agree a statement on the conflict, with the United States giving strong backing to Israel.

Sarkozy was scheduled to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah on Monday, after first meeting his Egyptian counterpart, Hosni Mubarak, in Cairo.

France hopes Egypt can rekindle its role as a mediator between Israel and Hamas.

In telephone talks with Sarkozy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and a host of other foreign leaders, Olmert refused to call off the offensive, his office said.

Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, is heading a delegation to the Middle East, while Medvedev's Middle East envoy, Alexander Saltanov, was also on the way.

The European Union and Russia are both part of the Middle East diplomatic Quartet, along with the United Nations and the United States.

Israel unleashed "Operation Cast Lead" on December 27 with the declared aim of ending rocket attacks on Israel that resumed after a six-month truce ended on December 19.

Rocket fire over the past week has killed four people in Israel. Thirty-two rockets and mortar rounds were fired across the border on Sunday and hit Sderot, Ashdod and other towns, lightly injuring three people.

Israel believes Hamas may be seeking "a respectable" way out of the conflict having underestimated the scope of the military offensive, Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog said.

He told CNN television Hamas was under "huge pressure" from the military operation.

"The intelligence reports that we've received today in the Israeli cabinet are that the Hamas is looking for a respectable way of finding a way to get out of this situation," he said.

Israeli army spokesman Avi Benayahu told public television "Hamas has come to the conclusion that it has made an enormous strategic error by refusing to extend a ceasefire accord."

Al-Jazeera television said a Hamas delegation would go to Cairo on Monday at Egypt's invitation, but Hamas officials could not be reached for confirmation.

The Israeli offensive has sparked spiralling anger in the Muslim world and protests across the globe .

Israeli troops shot and killed a protester during a demonstration in the West Bank. Tens of thousands of Turks staged an anti-Israeli rally in Istanbul.

Protesters threw rocks and eggs at police outside the Israeli embassy in Oslo and police responded with tear gas.

The UN Security Council failed to agree a statement calling for a ceasefire in closed-door consultations late on Saturday.

That drew expressions of regret from UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Sunday, who said he would be working with key players to facilitate a consensus to bring about an end to the violence.

Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhum condemned the Security Council action as "a farce" dominated by the United States, which has strongly supported Israel.

Egypt summoned the ambassadors of the UN Security Council's five permanent members -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- to protest at the delay in passing a ceasefire resolution.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak condemned "in the strongest terms" Israel's ground attack which his office called a "terrifying aggression."
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« Reply #20 on: January 05, 2009, 07:05:00 pm »












                                               Palestinian casualties overwhelm Gaza hospitals



                                                            Gaza peace pleas rejected






Palestinians carry the bodies of three toddlers
Ahmed, Mohamed, and Issa Samouni



GAZA CITY,
Gaza
Jan 5, 2009
AP

— Israel ignored mounting international calls for a cease-fire Monday and said it won't stop its crippling 10-day assault until "peace and tranquility" are achieved in southern Israeli towns in the line of Palestinian rocket fire.

Israeli forces seized control of high-rise buildings and attacked smuggling tunnels and several mosques in a campaign against Hamas militants that took an increasing toll on civilians. Three young brothers were reported killed during shelling. Palestinian wounded filled hospital corridors.

Arab delegates met with the U.N. Security Council in New York Monday, urging members to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to the Israeli attacks and a permanent cease-fire. At the same time, diplomats and European leaders traveled the region in an effort to stop Israel's expanding ground and air offensive.

In the first serious clash in an urban area, Israeli troops and Hamas militants fought a gunbattle on the outskirts of the crowded Gaza City neighborhood of Shajaiyeh, Israeli defense officials said. Details also emerged of an unsuccessful attempt by Hamas fighters to capture Israeli soldiers hours after the ground operation began Saturday with a withering round of artillery fire.

Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu told Israeli TV the assault was going according to plan with forces sweeping through Palestinian rocket launching locations near the border and the militants suffering many casualties.

But no militant casualties were seen Monday by an Associated Press reporter at Shifa Hospital, the Gaza Strip's largest. Instead, the hospital was overwhelmed with civilians. Bodies were two to a morgue drawer, and the wounded were being treated in hallways because beds were full.

Gaza health officials reported that since the campaign began on Dec. 27 more than 550 Palestinians have been killed and 2,500 wounded, including 200 civilians. U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes told reporters in New York on Monday that U.N. officials believe at least 500 people have been killed in the fighting and that as many as 25 percent are civilians.
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« Reply #21 on: January 05, 2009, 07:14:30 pm »









At least 20 Palestinian children were killed during the day, said Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a health official. Most confirmed deaths have been civilians.

Five Israelis have been killed during the offensive, including a soldier in the ground operation. Heavy Israeli casualties could undermine what has so far been overwhelming public support for the operation.

The three brothers died in an attack on a town outside Gaza City, a Gaza health official said. They were carried to a cemetery in an emotional funeral. One of them, Issa Samouni, 3, was wrapped in a white cloth, showing only his pale, yellow face. A man delicately placed him in a dark grave cut into the earth.

In Shajaiyeh, troops seized control of three six-story buildings on the outskirts, climbing to rooftop gun and observation positions, Israeli defense officials said. Residents were locked in their rooms and soldiers took away their cell phones, a neighbor said, quoting a relative who called before his phone was seized.

"The army is there, firing in all directions," said Mohammed Salmai, a 29-year-old truck driver. "All we can do is take clothes to each other to keep ourselves warm and pray to God that if we die, someone will find our bodies under the rubble."

Fighter jets attacked houses, weapons storage sites, a pair of mosques and smuggling tunnels, as they have since the start of the offensive. Israel has attacked several mosques during the campaign, saying they were used to store weapons.

In another strategic move, Israeli forces seized a main highway in Gaza, slicing the territory in two.

Israeli defense officials said one soldier was killed when soldiers fought off an attempt by Hamas fighters to capture Israeli soldiers hours after the ground operation began. They said the infantrymen were advancing up a strategic hill before dawn Sunday when militants emerged from a tunnel and tried to drag two Israeli infantrymen inside.

Hamas already holds one Israeli soldier, captured in June 2006, and another would be an important bargaining chip.

Israeli forces detained 80 Palestinians — some of them suspected Hamas members — and transferred several to Israel for questioning, said military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information.

The Gaza City area was rocked by shelling from both sides as gunboats in the sea and artillery and tanks closing in from the east unloaded thunderous fire.

After dark, the shelling reached deeper into residential areas. Fireballs lit up the horizon to the east, setting off blazes on the ground and silhouetting Gaza's tall buildings. Tracer fire ripped across the skyline.
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« Reply #22 on: January 05, 2009, 07:17:23 pm »










President George W. Bush emphasized "Israel's desire to protect itself."

"The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas," he said.

The deputy head of Hamas' politburo in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, rejected the U.S. proposal, telling the AP the U.S. plan seeks to impose "a de facto situation" and encourages Israel to continue its attacks on Gaza.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who unsuccessfully proposed a two-day truce last week, met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who lost control of Gaza to Hamas in June 2007.

Europe "wants a cease-fire as quickly as possible," Sarkozy said after meeting Abbas, urging Israel to halt the offensive, while blaming Hamas for acting "irresponsibly and unpardonably."

A European Union delegation met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni.

"The EU insists on a cease-fire at the earliest possible moment," said Karel Schwarzenberg, the foreign minister of the Czech Republic, which took over the EU's presidency last week from France. Rocket attacks on Israel also must stop, Schwarzenberg told a news conference with Livni.

The EU brought no truce proposals of its own because the cease-fire "must be concluded by the involved parties," he added.

As the bruising campaign entered its 10th day Monday, Hamas pummeled southern Israel with more than 30 rockets and promised to wait for Israeli soldiers "in every street and every alleyway."

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the offensive would go on until Israel achieved "peace and tranquility" for residents of southern Israel.

One of the rockets struck a large outdoor market that was closed at the time in the town of Sderot, just across Gaza's northeastern border. Another hit a kindergarten in the coastal city of Ashdod, north of the strip. The kindergarten, like schools across southern Israel, was closed and empty because of the rocket threat.

Israel has three main demands: an end to Palestinian attacks, international supervision of any truce, and a halt to Hamas rearming. Hamas demands an end to Israeli attacks and the opening of border crossings to vital cargo.

Livni said the operation was designed to change the rules of Israel's struggle against Hamas after years of firing rockets at Israel. From now on, she said, "when Israel is targeted, Israel is going to retaliate."

Israeli military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich said Hamas was to blame for civilian casualties because it operates in densely populated areas.

"If Hamas chose cynically to use those civilians as human shields, then Hamas should be accountable," she said.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar exhorted Palestinians to fight the Israeli forces and target Israeli civilians and Jews abroad.

"The Zionists have legitimized the killing of their children by killing our children. They have legitimized the killing of their people all over the world by killing our people," Zahar said in a grainy video broadcast on Hamas TV.

Israel's operation has sparked anger across the Arab world and has drawn criticism from countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, which have ties with Israel and have been intimately involved in Mideast peacemaking.

In Beirut, Lebanon, protesters tried to pull away barbed wire blocking their path to the U.S. Embassy. They were driven back with heavy blasts of water.

___
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« Reply #23 on: January 05, 2009, 08:29:16 pm »









                                      Gaza hospital overwhelmed by dead, wounded
     





GAZA CITY,
Gaza Strip
AP
Jan 5, 2008

– Wailing in grief, Salah Samouni banged his head against a wall inside the hospital morgue where the bodies of his three young nephews lay on the floor Monday.

After 10 days of a relentless Israeli assault, Shifa Hospital, Gaza's largest, is overwhelmed. Bodies were crowded two to a morgue drawer, and some — like 3-year-old Issa, 4-year-old Mohammed and 5-year-old Ahmad — were on the floor.

Shifa's shabby halls echoed Monday with the sounds of people screaming and the wail of ambulance sirens. Many of the wounded were being treated in hallways by harried doctors and nurses running on little sleep. The hospital was powered by emergency generators after shelling damaged power lines.

Since Israel began a ground offensive Saturday, most of the dead and wounded arriving at Shifa are civilians, as Israel's offensive shifts from airstrikes to artillery shelling and fighting close to densely populated areas.

Israel says it is targeting only the Hamas militants who control Gaza in an attempt to halt seven years of rocket fire at Israeli communities. But the 550 Palestinians who have been killed include at least 200 civilians, according to Dr. Moaiya Hassanein of the Gaza Health Ministry.

On Monday, 20 children between the ages of 2 and 15 were killed, he said. Since the military offensive began Dec. 27, three Israeli civilians and two soldiers have been killed.

Nurse Ahmad Abdul Salam, 34, red-eyed and smelling of sweat, his clothes stained with blood, said he couldn't sleep. "When my shift ends, I help my colleagues. These are our brothers and friends who are being harmed," he said.

The hospital's most gruesome scene was in its morgue, where blood pooled on the floor and refrigerators meant to hold 35 bodies were crammed with 70, laid side-by-side in drawers.

Lying on a gray mat on the floor, the three Samouni brothers appeared baby-faced and almost as though they were asleep, except for a large bandage wrapped around Issa's head.

The children's father was also killed in what relatives said was an Israeli strike on a house in eastern Gaza City where the family had fled to escape fighting nearby.

Relatives wept Monday and one man screamed for help for other family members he said were buried under the rubble of the house. "For God's sake, rescue them!" he pleaded.

No militants were seen at Shifa. Israel says its forces have killed dozens of Palestinian gunmen, but Hamas has not listed its casualties and it is unclear where militants are being treated or where their bodies were taken.

Shifa has been powered by generators since power completely cut out in Gaza City three days ago. Israel has not replenished Gaza's power station with industrial fuel since fighting began, and airstrikes have badly damaged power lines.

U.N. health official Mahmoud Daher said the generators were meant only as an emergency backup and he feared they would break down with the constant use, imperiling some 70 people hooked up to lifesaving equipment.

Throughout the day, exhausted medics rushed in with the wounded and the bodies of the dead.

Mohammed Salman, 26, a volunteer medic washing blood from the inside of an ambulance, said he had treated people with horrific injuries, including headless children and a woman whose stomach had been torn open.

The woman screamed, "Leave me and save my children," he said, and burst into tears.

Israeli aircraft have hit three ambulances in Gaza since the campaign began, killing seven medics, according to Gaza health officials.

A medical building owned by a relief organization not connected to Hamas was also bombed, said Daher. He said the building was destroyed, along with an ambulance, three mobile clinics and donated medicines.

The Israeli army says it has no records of any of those strikes.

Raed Arini, a Shifa hospital official, said he has stopped filling out the space on death certificates that says "reason for death."

"The reason for death is the Israeli army," he said, as medics rushed in with more wounded people.

____

Associated Press writer Diaa Hadid reported from Jerusalem.
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« Reply #24 on: January 06, 2009, 07:22:59 am »









                                                    Italy urges Gaza truce


                                  President and foreign minister blame Hamas for crisis






 (ANSA)
- Naples,
January 5, 2009

- Italian President Giorgio Napolitano on Monday expressed his hope that peace missions by the European Union and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would lead to an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

''The situation is a very difficult one. Despite all the appeals being made nothing appears to be efficient from a political and diplomatic point of view,'' the head of state observed.

''Europe is trying to do something but it is not easy. It is my hope that that the EU missions coordinated by (the EU's High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier) Solana and Sarkozy will be successful in achieving a truce and that a suspension of hostilities will open the way for peace,'' Napolitano said.

Looking at the overall picture, the Italian president observed that ''the situation in Gaza is marked by the presence of a force like Hamas which has divided the Palestinian people''.

''This was apparent to me when I visited there a few months ago. Hamas has aggravated an already complicated crisis,'' he added.

In regards to Italy's position, the president said he did not see ''any great difference of opinion between the leading political parties on the crisis in Gaza''.

''There is common ground between all political parties on Israel's right to defend itself and for the Palestinians to have their own sovereign state,'' Napolitano said.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has also called for a ceasefire in Gaza but put the blame for the current crisis on Hamas.

Hamas, he explained ''not only violated a truce, it also violated the principle of land for peace''.

The minister added that while Israel ''has the right to defend itself'' from missile attacks on its border towns, ''it also has the duty to avoid civilian casualties''.

According to Frattini, ''the Palestinian people are the real victims of Hamas, which holds them hostage in Gaza''.

Frattini was critical of the EU sending two missions to the Mideast - one headed by the Czech Republic which holds the EU rotating presidency and the other by Sarkozy - on the grounds that Europe's credibility and political clout was undermined by not speaking in a single voice.

However, he recognised that France, which held the EU presidency in the second half of 2008, ''worked hard on this problem and is interested in finding a solution''.

Frattini ruled out making any visit to the Mideast himself because ''missions like these need to take place when they are useful. I will go there when the time is right''.

Italy this year holds the presidency of the Group of Eight (G8) most industrialised countries and has made the Mideast one of the priorities of its term.
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« Reply #25 on: January 06, 2009, 07:24:24 am »










                                Italy Says EU, Not Sarkozy, Should Seek Gaza Peace (Update1)







By Steve Scherer

Jan. 5, 2009
(Bloomberg)

-- Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini urged French President Nicolas Sarkozy to let the European Union lead negotiations to stop the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

Sarkozy, who was EU president until Dec. 31, meets today Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to push for a cease-fire. Also today, Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg is leading an EU mission to the region. The Czech Republic took over the rotating EU presidency from France on Jan. 1.

“When everyone conducts his own mission, it weakens the strategic position,” Frattini said in an interview broadcast by SkyTG24 television. “Now there’s a new president” of the EU, he said, adding: “We must coordinate our action.”

Sarkozy is the first Western leader to visit Israel and the Palestinian Territories since the conflict started Dec. 27. Israel two nights ago broadened what started as an aerial campaign aimed at stopping rocket attacks on its southern towns and cities into a ground operation involving thousands of troops.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek said he “welcomes” Sarkozy’s mission, in a news conference broadcast live on CT24 public television. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, speaking at the same news conference in Lany, Czech Republic, said “let’s not look for a big conflict in this.” Klaus said it was “logical” that Sarkozy was representing France, which has good contacts in the region.

Jan Techau, an EU expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin, said he would “assume that the Sarkozy mission has been closely coordinated with the Czech EU presidency.”

“If it’s not, it’s a scandal,” said Techau.

The Czech Republic “doesn’t have much clout” in the Middle East and “if the Czechs accept Sarkozy’s role,” then it’s positive, said Techau.





To contact the reporters on this story:

Steve Scherer in Rome at scherer@bloomberg.net

Last Updated: January 5, 2009 10:32 EST
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« Reply #26 on: January 06, 2009, 07:27:37 am »









                                      Israel hits UN school, nears major Gaza towns
     





Ibrahim Barzak And
Steve Weizman,
Associated Press Writers
Jan. 6, 2009
GAZA CITY,
Gaza

– Israeli forces edged closer to Gaza's major population centers on Tuesday and attacked new sites, including a U.N. school, taking more civilian lives after ignoring mounting international calls for an immediate cease-fire. A Palestinian rocket attack wounded an Israeli infant.

The United Nations said three civilians were killed in the airstrike on its school, where hundreds of people from a Gaza City refugee camp had gone to seek shelter from Israel's blistering 11-day offensive against the Hamas militant group.

The missile landed in a courtyard late Monday, causing minor damage to the building.

"There's nowhere safe in Gaza. Everyone here is terrorized and traumatized," said John Ging, the top U.N. official in Gaza.

"I am appealing to political leaders here and in the region and the world to get their act together and stop this," he said, speaking at Gaza's largest hospital. "They are responsible for these deaths."

U.N. officials say they provided their location coordinates to Israel's army to ensure that their buildings in Gaza are not targeted. The Israeli army had no comment on the latest strikes, but in the past has accused militants of using schools, mosques and residential neighborhoods to store weapons or launch attacks.

Israel launched its offensive on Dec. 27 to halt repeated Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns. After a weeklong air campaign, Israeli ground forces invaded Gaza over the weekend. More than 500 Palestinians have been killed, including more than 100 civilians, according to United Nations figures. Nine Israelis have died since the operation began.

In other fighting early Tuesday, at least 18 Palestinians were killed in shelling from tanks and naval craft, local hospital officials said. Only two of the dead were confirmed as militants.

Tanks rumbled closer to the towns of Khan Younis and Dir el Balah in south and central Gaza but were still several kilometers (miles) outside, witnesses said, adding that the sounds of fighting could be heard from around the new Israeli positions. Israel already has encircled Gaza City, the area's biggest city.

The rising civilian death toll has drawn international condemnations and raised concerns of a looming humanitarian disaster. Many Gazans are without electricity or running water, thousands have been displaced from their homes and residents say that without distribution disrupted, food supplies are running thin.

"This is not a crisis, it's a disaster," said water utility official Munzir Shiblak. "We are not even able to respond to the cry of the people." He said about 800,000 residents in Gaza City and northern parts of the territory had no access to running water from Tuesday.

Israel says it won't stop the assault until its southern towns are freed of the threat of Palestinian rocket fire and it receives international guarantees that Hamas, a militant group backed by Iran and Syria, will not restock its weapons stockpile. It blames Hamas for the civilian casualties, saying the group intentionally seeks cover in crowded residential areas.

"The battle is bitter but unavoidable. We set out on this operation in order to deal Hamas a heavy blow and to alter living conditions in the south of the country and to block smuggling into the Gaza Strip," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

The army says it has dealt a harsh blow to Hamas, killing 130 militants in the past two days and greatly reducing the rocket fire. At least 15 rockets were fired Tuesday and one landed in the town of Gadera, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from the Gaza border, lightly wounding a 3-month-old infant, police said. At the outset of the fighting, militants launched dozens of rockets each day.

Hamas is believed to have 20,000 fighters.
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« Reply #27 on: January 06, 2009, 07:29:31 am »









Israeli forces have cut the main Gaza highway in several places, cutting the strip into northern, southern and central sectors and preventing movement between them. Israel also has taken over high-rise buildings in Gaza City and destroyed dozens of smuggling tunnels — Hamas' main lifeline — along the Egyptian border.

Late Monday, a paratroop officer and three Israeli infantrymen were killed in two separate friendly fire incidents, the military said. Heavy Israeli casualties could threaten to undermine what so far has been wide public support for the operation.

A high-level European Union delegation met with President Shimon Peres on Tuesday in a futile bid to put an end to the violence. Commissioner Benita Ferraro-Waldner acknowledged Israel's right to self-defense, but said its response was disproportionate.

"We have come to Israel in order to advance the initiative for a humanitarian cease-fire and I will tell you, Mr. President, that you have a serious problem with international advocacy, and that Israel's image is being destroyed," she said, according to a statement from Peres' office.

In Geneva, the international Red Cross said Gaza was in a "full-blown" humanitarian crisis. Its head of operations, Pierre Kraehenbuehl, said the few remaining power supplies could collapse at any moment.

Israeli leaders say there is no humanitarian crisis and that they have allowed the delivery of vital supplies.

The EU delegation was one of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to forge a cease-fire. French President Nicolas Sarkozy left Israel after a day of meetings with leaders.

Europe "wants a cease-fire as quickly as possible," Sarkozy said Monday, urging Israel to halt the offensive, while blaming Hamas for acting "irresponsibly and unpardonably."

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert stressed to Sarkozy that any agreement "must contain at its foundation the total cessation of all arms transfers to Hamas," said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev.

Regev noted that Hamas used a previous six-month truce to double the range of its rockets. About one-eighth of Israel's 7 million citizens now live in rocket range.

In New York, Arab delegates met with the U.N. Security Council, urging members to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate end to the attacks and a permanent cease-fire.

In Washington, the State Department said the U.S. was pressing for a cease-fire that would include a halt to rocket attacks and an arrangement for reopening crossings on the border with Israel, said spokesman Sean McCormack.

The crossings, used to deliver vital food shipments into Gaza, have been largely closed since Hamas took control of Gaza in June 2007. A third element of a U.S.-backed cease-fire would address the smuggling tunnels used by Hamas.

President George W. Bush emphasized "Israel's desire to protect itself."

"The situation now taking place in Gaza was caused by Hamas," he said.

A top exiled Hamas official in Syria, Moussa Abu Marzouk, rejected the U.S. proposal, telling the AP the U.S. plan seeks to impose "a de facto situation" and encourages Israel to continue its attacks on Gaza.

In Tuesday's fighting, six civilians were killed when an Israeli ship fired a shell at their house on the Gaza shore, hospital officials said. Residents said the gunboat apparently fired at a group of militants next to the house who were preparing to ambush advancing Israeli troops. Two militants died.

Palestinians said Israeli attacks intensified before dawn and at least 10 more civilians were killed when shells hit houses on the edge of Gaza City and in the Jebaliya refugee camp, to the north.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said the overall Palestinian toll since the opening of the Gaza campaign on Dec. 27 stood at about 500, with about 125 of them civilians.

Israeli forces detained 80 Palestinians — some of them suspected Hamas members — and transferred several to Israel for interrogation, said military officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to release the information.

Israel's operation has angered many across the Arab world and has drawn criticism from countries such as Turkey, Egypt and Jordan, which have ties with Israel and have been intimately involved in Mideast peacemaking.
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« Reply #28 on: January 06, 2009, 07:37:59 am »









                                    Crisis takes toll on Gaza's seasoned doctors, medics


     




Ahmed Abu Hamda And
Dion Nissenbaum,
Mcclatchy Newspapers –
Mon Jan 5, 2009
GAZA CITY,
Gaza Strip

— They come in waves, usually not long after a blast rattles the building or a black cloud of smoke rises up over the apartment buildings.

First come the ambulances, careening through Shifa Hospital's crowded courtyard as frenzied medics rush bloody patients through mobs of Palestinians who've come in previous waves to find out if their relatives are alive or dead.

Then come beat-up cars packed with Palestinians injured by Israeli shrapnel: brothers carrying bloodied younger sisters, fathers carrying lifeless sons, uncles carrying wailing nephews.

Shifa Hospital has long been crisis central for the Gaza Strip . In a seemingly endless series of conflicts, the wounded always come here.

Even doctors seasoned in Gaza's many emergencies, however, are reeling from the scale and intensity of the latest Israeli assault, which has killed more than 550 Palestinians and injured 2,500 others in 10 days of fighting.

As Israel's campaign against the militant Islamist group Hamas shifts from targeted air strikes to intense artillery barrages and street battles, the number of civilians caught in the crossfire is growing. Now the military strikes are also taking a toll on the harried medical crews sent into the urban battlefields to rescue wounded survivors.

At least six medics have been killed by Israeli strikes and three ambulances have been destroyed by Israeli fire, according to United Nations officials.

"There are no safe areas, and Gazans who want to flee the fighting have been prevented from leaving the Strip," said John Prideaux-Brune , the head of Oxfam-Great Britain's Palestinian office.

Prideaux-Brune lost one Palestinian colleague on Sunday when an Israeli shell hit the ambulance he was in as it tried to spirit a wounded patient away from advancing Israeli forces in the northern Gaza City town of Beit Lahiya.

The increasing risk to medics means that some emergency calls are going unanswered because ambulances can't safely navigate the battlefield.

"Some wounded people simply die while waiting for an ambulance," said Antoine Grand , the head of the Red Cross office in the Gaza Strip . "This is of course absolutely appalling."

The Israeli military says that it's doing all it can to avoid civilian casualties and blames Gaza militants for putting innocent Palestinians in the line of fire by using homes, apartments and mosques as hideouts and launching pads for counterattacks.

With artillery fire raining down and firefights breaking out in densely populated neighborhoods, civilian deaths are rising. Of the 550 Palestinians killed during the past 10 days, at least 111 of them have been children, according to Moaiya Hassanain, an official with the Health Ministry in the Hamas -controlled Gaza Strip .

Among those killed on Monday, medical officials said, were four young siblings who died when an Israeli missile struck a house in Gaza City and three children who were killed when the Israeli navy shelled the refugee camp that's home to Hamas political leader Ismail Haniyeh.

Israel has barred foreign reporters from entering Gaza , and there was no way to confirm the Health Ministry figures; Israel said it had no information on civilian casualties.

However, the chaotic scene at Shifa Hospital , which is running on generators because it's been without normal power for three days, lends credibility to the numbers.

Doctors treat the crush of patients on the dirty reception room floor. Throngs of family members push past Hamas security to reach fallen relatives inside, and at the hospital's small morgue, families quietly console one another.

In one corner of the reception area, medics worked to stabilize Asmaa Bahtatete, a 10-year-old in furry pink pajama bottoms who'd been hit by shrapnel from an Israeli strike.

Nearby, Mohammed Sahwail and Ali Abu Jazar waited for news about Ali's brother, who they said was among a group of Palestinians hit by an Israeli strike while the men were gathering in a mourning tent to honor another Gaza resident who died during the ongoing fighting.

Jabel Abdel Dayam stood watch over his 21-year-old son, Slem, and angrily cursed everyone from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak .

" Hosni Mubarak opened the Suez Canal for American warships to liberate Kuwait from Iraq ," he said of the Egyptian president. "Let's then imagine that Kuwait is Palestine and Iraq is Israel . Why can't they liberate us the way they did with Kuwait ?"

Dayam said he'd lost three nephews, one of whom was a medic who was killed while he was trying to rescue people trapped by the Israeli campaign.

"Barak is a dog," the anguished father said later while standing over his son's bed.

On Monday, Israel gave the International Committee of the Red Cross permission to send in new international medical teams to help treat the wounded.

"The system is completely exhausted and overstretched," said Red Cross official Anne-Sophie Bonefeld .




(Hamda, a McClatchy special correspondent, reported from Gaza City . Nissenbaum reported from Jerusalem .)
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« Reply #29 on: January 06, 2009, 09:22:18 am »









                                                Strike on 2nd UN school kills 30
     





GAZA CITY,
Gaza Strip
JAN. 6, 2009

– Palestinian medical officials say the death toll from an Israeli airstrike outside a United Nations school in the Gaza Strip has risen to 30.

The attack occurred about 10 yards (meters) outside the school in northern Gaza. It was the second deadly Israeli attack to strike a UN school in the past few hours.

Hospital director Bassam Abu Warda confirmed the 30 deaths from the second airstrike.

In both cases, the schools had been used as shelters for people displaced by Israel's offensive against Hamas militants. More than 500 people have been killed in the 11-day operation, including many civilians.

A top U.N. humanitarian official has condemned the violence and demanded an investigation.

Israel isn't commenting. But it accuses Hamas of using schools, mosques and residential areas for cover.




THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.





GAZA CITY,
Gaza Strip
(AP)
Jan. 6, 2009

— Palestinian medical officials say at least 12 people are dead in an Israeli airstrike outside a U.N. school in the northern Gaza Strip.

It is the second deadly Israeli airstrike to hit a U.N. school in the past few hours.

Palestinian health official Said Joudeh confirmed the death toll from the airstrike in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliya. He says the school was turned into a shelter for people displaced by Israel's offensive against Hamas militants.

More than 500 people have been killed in the 11-day operation, including dozens of civilians.

Israel isn't commenting on Tuesday's airstrikes.
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