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Fri 2 Jan 2009 09:56 AM

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At least 420 dead as Gaza blitz enters seventh day

UPDATE 1: Hamas calls for 'day of wrath' over killing of a senior commander.

Israeli warplanes pounded militant targets including a mosque in Gaza on Friday as Hamas ordered a "day of wrath" against Israel over the killing of a senior commander.

Thousands of Israeli security personnel were on alert after Hamas called for "massive marches" following the main weekly Muslim prayers, starting off from the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and from all mosques in the West Bank.

"We have mobilised thousands of people for the sector of east Jerusalem and neighbouring villages in order to maintain calm on Friday," police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told AFP.

The army also locked down the West Bank for 48 hours, with movement in and out of the territory prohibited except for emergencies and special cases.

Hamas called a "day of wrath" after an Israeli air strike killed Nizar Rayan , a firebrand hardliner, and several of his wives and children. At least 420 Palestinians have now been killed in Israel's seven-day-old blitz.

Rayan is the most senior Islamist figure killed by Israel since Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004.

With tanks and troops massed for a threatened ground offensive around Gaza and no ceasefire in sight, the army allowed foreigners to leave the battered enclave.

"The (border) crossing was specially reopened to allow foreign nationals to leave the Gaza Strip," an army spokesman told AFP, adding that more than 400 people were expected to cross.

The Israeli military pounded the densely populated territory for a seventh day, carrying out some 20 strikes overnight, bombing rocket launching sites and Hamas buildings, the army said.

Among the targets was a mosque in the northern town of Jabaliya that the military said was a "terror hub," used to stockpile weapons and as a Hamas operations centre.

The Islamist movement tried to retaliate for the massive bombardment, sending a handful of rockets slamming into Israeli territory overnight without causing casualties.

Israel unleashed its "Operation Cast Lead" on Hamas in Gaza on Saturday in response to persistent rocket fire from the territory, which the Islamists have run since June 2007.

Since then, at least 420 Palestinians have been killed and at least 2,180 wounded, according to medics. At least 25 percent of those killed are civilians, according to a UN count.

Gaza militants have fired more than 360 rockets into Israel, killing four people and wounding dozens more. Some of the rockets have reached deeper than ever inside Israeli territory, penetrating some 40 kilometres (24 miles) from the Gaza border.

The Israeli offensive - one of its deadliest-ever on Gaza - has sparked angry protests in the Muslim world and defied diplomatic efforts to broker a truce.

In the latest protest, more than 4,000 Muslims demonstrated in Sydney.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated that Israel does not think the time is yet ripe for a truce after talks in Paris on Thursday with President Nicolas Sarkozy and other French leaders.

"The question of whether it's enough or not will be the result of our assessment on a daily basis," she said.

Peace moves were also stalled at the UN Security Council even though UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the conflict had become "a dramatic crisis."

The civilian population in Gaza and stability throughout the Middle East "are trapped between the irresponsibility displayed in the indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas militants and the disproportionality of the continuing Israeli military operation," Ban said.

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Ajaz 11 years ago

Everyone in the world must come up to stop this cowardly massacre happening in Gaza by Israel. When it was Georgia-Russia conflict, Dalailama-China conflict, India terrorist attack, everyone in the world condemned & there was support. But surprisingly noone, specially western world is silent. If it continues like this, I hope there won't be any peace in any part of the world. Please raise your voice to stop the genocide in Gaza!!

NA Abdul Kader 11 years ago

Israel kills hundreds of occupaid Palestinians and destroyed tens of houses and masjids and this is not a terrorist attack? Why is everyone, especially western countries, silent? because these people who died are Muslims?

Confused 11 years ago

"Israel unleashed its "Operation Cast Lead" on Hamas in Gaza on Saturday in response to persistent rocket fire from the territory, which the Islamists have run since June 2007." Where was the outcry from the Islamic World for the people of Israel during the times when Hamas have been carelessly bombarding their country? Instead of pretending that Israel doesn't exist, how about talking to them like humans, figuring out what the actual problem is instead of pointing fingers, sharing religiously historic sites as being important to all religions rather than being more important to one other other, and behaving like rational human beings. I agree, the killing should stop, and is way over the top. The comments above go for the Israelis as well... Seriously. stop acting like children. Shake hands, get over it.

Amal 11 years ago

Mr. confused...Is this all what you understand about the crisis in Gaza? ... don't you understand that Israel is taking our country (Palestine) and renaming it as Israel...Yes, Israel does not exist ... it was planted after the British occupied the Arab world...learn some true history before you post such an ignorant comment.

Confused 11 years ago

Ignorance is bliss, isn't it Mr. Amal? The view you express is a common one in the middle east, mostly in the Islamic community, yet not agreed with in most of the rest of the (non-Islamic) world. Israel was not 'planted' by the British. Israel claimed it's own independence from the former country of Palestine after the UN officially approved it's partition to settle disputes between the Jewish and Islamic Palestinians. When the UN approves something it is usually by majority vote contributed to by all member countries registered in the UN. Using your 'logic', the UAE doesn't exist either, nor do most other places in this world which have, through a process of nominations, legislations, wars, treaties and other means become independent countries. In this case, who is to stop the French from one day claiming that, say, Germany doesn't exist, or vice versa? So, Mr. Amal, please take the above as a little lesson in history, geography and world politics... and perhaps even religion as this tends to fit in pretty well with most religious teachings as well. Honestly. Let's look into history and you will find many sightings related to 'The Land of Israel', the 'Jewish state of Palestine', the ancient 'Kingdom of Judah' and even in Arabic to 'Dawlat Isra-il'. To blatantly deny the existence of a country and it's people is sheer ignorance at it's best. Please take some time to learn history in the more worldly context and you will discovery many interesting facts such as the ones listed above. Enjoy.

nadia Ahmad 11 years ago

Wow, confused, iam just amazed at you!!!! you are calling a holocaust that has been taking place for the past 50 years, child's play!!! Israel has killed more than 400 people in the past 7 days and you call it child's play!!! WOW

Nigel B 11 years ago

Confused is correct in that the UN have sanctioned the establishment of Israel as a nation state, and being British I am ashamed of the mess that was created over 50 years ago! However Confused overlooks what the 'map' of 50 years ago looked like compared to today!! The Israeli's have been 'importing' its citizens, with huge incentives, from around the world over the past 50 years and are gradually squeezing out the Palestinians from their own land. I do not agree for a minute with the action Hamas has taken, and am convinced it is for their own ends, but the Israeli action is not proportionate. The West (in particular the US) have turned their backs on the Palestinians on the basis that "they are terrorists", and ignored the suffering caused by Israeli as they forcefully evict peaceloving people from their homes to bring in "settlers". This has been reinforced by the western press who also have a hidden agenda!! A fact that was made clear to me during several visits to the Occupied Territories over the past few years. I suggest that Confused go & see the suffering that is being caused there before passing further comment. In the meantime I hope common sense prevails and the views of the majority Palestinians are heard. I hope that both sides bring an end to this sooner rather than than later for the sake of humanity.

michael 11 years ago

Confused, I'll make it quick as I don't have much time to get emotional with you. Clearly, you have been blinded by teachings that sugar coat the blatant robbery of the Palestinian territories. - To teach you a history lesson beyond that of your biblical teachings, you can research Ancient Egyption texts that date back before the bible, before the Ancient Land of Israel calling the area Palestinian territory, Palestine, Philistine! These texts date back well before biblical times. U should take the time to learn the truth, beyond your own brainwashing. - Secondly, it seems you enjoy throwing the word Islamist around as a defence mechanism for Israel's claims to Palestinian territory. If you have a problem with Islam, then why are you in the UAE? Further, as a Palestinian Christian, I stand united with my Palestinian brothers against the atrocities being done by the Israelis. That being said, I am not a supporter of Hamas, fundamentalism, or violence... I am a supporter of justice. This is not a question of religion, but a question of justice and humanity. The forefathers of the Israeli soldiers fighting today moved into the home of my grandparents... they robbed their homes / cars / farms and took it as if it was theirs. but they could not rob their history and what was rightfully theirs and hence the Jews in Israel will never live in peace... Further, I will make sure my great great grandchildren are taught of this horrible mark in history and fight forever against the injustice of the creation of the Israeli state.

Indian 11 years ago

The West has been too quiet about the attacks taking place in Gaza during the past 7 days. I was on a train when the terror attacks took place in Bombay, India, in December. At that time there was a lot of condemnation and international support given to the Indian government, and still they are offering support to investigate and put pressure on Pakistan to inquire about the terrorist activities. Why has this not been done in Gaza? The answer is because people from the West were the targets for the attack in Bombay. Despite many innocent deaths in Gaza the West has not moved a muscle, because they are not Americans or British.

Cleo 11 years ago

To Confused / Spaced Out Palestine was given to the Jews based on a treaty called Balfour's treaty. The Brits essentially decided to " give " the Jews a portion of the British empire ( Palestine ) after they were persecuted by the Nazis in Europe. Balfour's Treaty is not a "Middle Eastern Myth " . It's history. Instead of slandering everyone who doesn't agree with you or comes from the Middle East as "Ignorant " how about you try this on for size: the real problem at the time was the fact that white, fascist , arrogant European Nazis did not have the decency to accept the fact their white European brothers chose to practice a faith other than their own ( Judaism ). They then decided to make a defenceless people , the Palestinians , pay for their actions by stripping them of the Palestinians of their homes and property , instead of trying to do the right thing and pay the consequences of the atrocities perpetrated by their own people by giving White , European Jews a safe place to live in Europe . Cliche but true :Two wrongs never make a right . You can rant on and be as verbally abusive/ slanderous as you like , but the bottom line is , the Palestinians are a proud , strong people , and I have no doubt they will realize their dream of peace and freedom, and deep in your heart you know they will too. Enjoy THAT.