Day ten: Gaza City “partially besieged”

The Palestinian death toll reached 530 as Israel’s assault on Gaza entered its tenth day Jan. 5, and Israeli ground forces encircled Gaza City. Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared the city “partially besieged.” Israeli air-strikes continued, and armed Palestinian groups launched dozens of projectiles across the border. Dozens of artillery shells landed in residential houses in outlying Gaza City neighborhoods and east of Jabalia refugee camp. Palestinian fighters continued to exchange fire with Israeli troops, primarily in northern towns and the outskirts of densely-populated Gaza City. Three Israeli soldiers were killed and 24 others wounded by a tank shell in a “friendly fire incident” in the northern Gaza Strip, the military said in a statement.

Homes, hospitals targeted
Israeli shelling killed 14 members of two families whose homes came under fire at Ash-Shati refugee camp and the Zaytoun neighborhood of Gaza City. Also shelled was home of Jamil Mizhir, a senior leader in the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), in An-Nuseirat Refugee Camp in the central Gaza Strip.

Hospitals in Gaza are also becoming targets. Al-Wafa Hospital in the eastern Gaza Strip received warning that they would be shelled, but the hosptial administration and staff refused to evacuate on account of the number of injured being treated there. At Ash-Shifa Hospital, the largest in the Gaza Strip, Israeli warplanes bombed the adjacent Ash-Shifa towers, home to the Health Committees.

Al-Umma University of Police Sciences in An-Nuseir neighborhood in Gaza City was also bombarded. A car was targeted west of Ash-Shifa tower in Ash-Shati camp, and as a result two were injured.

Barak: “operation continues”
Barak, speaking to reporters before a meeting of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, vowed to continue the operation until Hamas stopped its rocket attacks on Israeli communities. “Hamas has suffered a very heavy blow, but we have yet to reach the goals we set for ourselves, so the operation continues,” he said. “International talks are being held simultaneously.” Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi were praised by nearly all committee members, apart from Knesset Member Zahava Gal-On (Meretz), who criticized the ground incursion.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy met with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah to push for a ceasefire. Sarkozy, who also met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, told reporters in Ramallah that he is working with Egypt on a “common initiative” to resolve the crisis. (Bloomberg, Jan. 6; Ma’an News Agency, YNet, Jan. 5)

Hamas threatens to target nuclear site
The armed wing of Hamas issued a statement in Gaza saying it had “lots of surprises” waiting for Israel’s soldiers and would “fight against the aggression.” The Al-Qassam Brigades threatened to widen their rocket attacks in a broadcast addressing Israelis aired on Hamas’ al-Aqsa TV. “We promise you that our target-sites will be vulnerable at all times and open to attack any time of day,” said Hamas’ military wing spokesman Abu Ubayda. “We will expand our targets.”

Tel Aviv and the Israeli nuclear site at Dimona have not yet been targeted, said Abu Ubayda, but “we will not hesitate to launch projectiles at these sites if Israel continues its attack at the one and a half million people of the Gaza Strip.” (Ma’an News Agency, Bloomberg, Jan. 5)

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