Saturday, November 17, 2012

Israel: Gaza crisis Day 4


Jerusalem - Eight Palestinians were killed this morning as Israel continued its air strikes in the Gaza Strip on the fourth day of Operation 'Pillar of Defence'.

Four Palestinians died in Zouhour, Rafah. Three members of Ezzedin al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas's armed wing, were killed in the Maghazi refugee camp. Another fighter died in Tel-al-Sultan, Rafah.
Israel Defence Forces sources said that since the operation began, its air force carried out some 830 strikes, an estimated 180 last night Israel television reported.

Over the same period, Palestinian militias fired more than 350 rockets, at least 16 this morning. About 200 were intercepted by Israel's Iron Dome air defence system.

Overnight, the headquarters of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh were also destroyed.

Israel called up 75,000 reservists, and blocked crossing points in the north and east of Gaza, massing troops and tanks on the border for a possible ground operation.

Palestinian civilians living near the border fled south fearing an attack.

Since the start of Israel's offensive four days ago, 38 Palestinians have been killed, including many civilians; 280 were wounded. Three Israeli civilians were also killed.

Diplomatic efforts are underway to stop the escalation. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on both sides to stop further bloodshed. He said he would visit the region as soon as possible.

US President Barack Obama spoke on the phone with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, reiterating "US support for Israel's right to defend itself". He also "expressed regret over the loss of Israeli and Palestinian civilian lives".

At the same time, the US leader spoke with Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi asking him to use his influence to stop Hamas. Russia and the European Union are also in favour of Egypt's involvement. Egypt and Malaysia are trying to find an international mediator to broker a truce.

Yesterday, Egyptian Foreign Minister Hisham Qandil visited the Gaza Strip for a few hours, decrying Israel's "aggression". This morning Tunisian Foreign Minister Rafik Abdessalem also travelled to Gaza.

Demonstrations in favour of Hamas were held in the West Bank, Iran, Egypt, Syria and refugee camps in Lebanon.
In the West Bank, Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas said that Israel's offensive will not stop Palestinian demand for recognition as a non-member state in the United Nations on 29 November.

In Israel, activists accuse Netanyahu of launching 'Pillar of Defence' to improve his chances to win in the upcoming elections in January.



- AsiaNews