Grim calm in Gaza; violence on West Bank

The fragile ceasefire in the Gaza Strip entered its third day Jan. 20, with residents struggling to absorb the devastation caused by Israel’s deadly 22-day assault on the territory. UN chief Ban Ki-moon is to make his first visit to witness first hand the extent of the destruction, which has left some 4,100 homes totally destroyed and 17,000 others damaged. Medics in Gaza are now saying more than 1,300 Palestinians, nearly a third of them children, were killed in the Israeli offensive.

Hamas’ armed wing again warned Israel it would face more rocket attacks if it does not withdraw all its forces by Sunday Jan. 25. “Our arsenal of rockets has not been affected and we continued to fire them during the war without interruption,” said Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades’ spokesman Abu Obeida. “We are still able to launch them.”

Abu Obeida also said said Hamas lost only 48 fighters, although Israel claims it killed more than 500. He also said Israel lost at least 80 soldiers. The Israeli army claimed that only 10 were killed (and three civilians in rocket attacks). Groups linked to the Fatah movement reported 37 combatants killed, Islamic Jihad 34, the Popular Resistance Committees 17 and the leftist Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine 13. (Middle East Online, Jan. 20)

Meanwhile on the West Bank, Israeli medical crews said they found an Israeli settler shot in the head near the Kokhav Hashahar settlement in Ramallah on the night of Jan. 19. A previously unknown group calling itself “al-Basha’er Army” claim responsibility for the attack in a communique to Ma’an News Agency. The settler is in critical condition at a local hospital.

Also that night, Israeli settlers reported being hit by a Molotov cocktail while driving on the main road between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. No injuries were reported. Israeli troops detained several youth in the incident. (Ma’an News Agency, Jan. 20)

See our last post on Gaza and the West Bank.

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