Israel pounded Gaza with bombs and shells Jan. 9, vowing to pursue its war despite a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would not bow to “outside influence,” as its warplanes carried out more air-strikes and the army’s tanks shelled several locations despite an announced three-hour “humanitarian” lull. Hamas meanwhile also rejected the UN resolution on the grounds that it only serves Israel’s interests. Gaza medical authorities say the death toll in the offensive now stands at 801, with more than 3,500 injured. Children account for 230 of the dead.
More civilian targets hit
Israeli airstrikes demolished ten homes overnight, including the residence of the Hamas chief of police for Gaza, Abu Obeida Al-Jarrah, in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood. Warplanes also destroyed the house of the Hamas security chief in the southern city of Rafah. A police station in the Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza was also demolished, along with the Ar-Rebat Mosque in Khan Younis. In the town of Al-Zawaydah, in the central Gaza Strip, three were killed and seven injured by shelling from Israeli gunboats.
Hamas and allied armed groups fired more than 15 rockets into southern Israel, injuring one person, the Israeli military said. At least four Grad rockets hit Beersheva, about 25 miles from Gaza.
“Dire” threat of hunger
The United Nations’ main aid agency in Gaza, UNRWA, was forced to halt operations by the ongoing bombing, raising fears that the territory’s beleaguered 1.5 million population will soon go hungry. “The need on the ground is dire,” Nancy Ronan, spokeswoman for the UN World Food Program, said from Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza. “Eighty percent of the population is in need right now, maybe even beyond that. We got food into Gaza, but we now have a problem distributing it because of the security situation.”
Early Jan. 10, UNRWA announced that its Gaza operations would resume following guarantees for the safety of its personnel from Israeli military authorities. (Press TV, Iran, Jan. 10; Ma’an News Agency, Middle East Online, Jan. 9)
Israeli Defense Forces admit error in shelling of school?
UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness told the Israeli daily Haaretz that the IDF had conceded wrongdoing in the shelling of a UN school, which Israeli military authorities said was being used by armed militants. “In briefings senior [Israel Defense Forces] officers conducted for foreign diplomats, they admitted the shelling to which IDF forces in Jabalya were responding did not originate from the school,” Gunness said. “The IDF admitted in that briefing that the attack on the UN site was unintentional.”
He noted that all the footage released by the IDF of militants firing from inside the school was from 2007 and not from the incident itself. “There are no up-to-date photos,” Gunness said. “In 2007, we abandoned the site and only then did the militants take it over.” (Ha’aretz, Jan. 9)
Clashes in Ramallah, Hebron, Jerusalem
Hamas supporters protesting the Gaza offensive clashed with Palestinian Authority security forces who used tear gas in the West Bank city of Ramallah, with 13 hospitalized and several more detained. Hamas protesters also clashed with Israeli forces in Hebron, where soldiers fired rubber-coated bullets and teargas. In Jerusalem, police fired teargas at dozens of young Palestinians who threw stones. It was the second week in a row that Hamas called for a “day of wrath” against the Israeli aggression. (Middle East Online, Xinhua, Jan. 9)
Protests in Egypt, Jordan
Arab anger at the conflict is mounting with more than 50,000 Egyptians rallying after prayers in the city of Alexandria to condemn Israel’s onslaught. Legislators affiliated with the opposition Muslim Brotherhood led the protest in the ancient Mediterranean port city that echoed to such slogans as “Down with Israel and with every collaborator.”
Thousands also marched in Amman, Jordan, chanting “no Israel embassy on Arab territory.” (Middle East Online, Xinhua, Jan. 9)
See our last post on Gaza.
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Israel is committing war crimes
International law scholar George E. Bisharat writes for the Wall Street Journal, Jan. 10: