Israel advances into Gaza City; more rockets fall from Lebanon

Israeli forces battled Palestinian resistance fighters in Gaza City early Jan. 14, advancing hundreds of yards towards the city center over the past 24 hours. Israeli warplanes meanwhile bombed Rafah and the Strip’s southern border with Egypt. Medical sources said some 70 people were killed Jan. 13, taking the overall toll to around 975 Palestinians, with another 4,400 wounded. The Israeli death toll since the start of the offensive remains at 13, including three civilians. At least six more soldiers have been wounded.

Eighteen rockets and mortar rounds were fired into Israel from Gaza—barely a quarter of the number recorded at the start of the offensive. No casualties were reported. Israel’s military said Operation Cast Lead was making progress but warned that troops faced “complicated” conditions in Gaza City, home to more than half a million people.

Hamas mulls ceasefire; West blames Hamas
A Hamas delegation is currently in Cairo for talks on a ceasefire proposal drawn up by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. A top Hamas leader, Mussa Abu Marzuk, said the movement has “substantial observations” about the initiative but there was “still a chance” they would accept it.

Hillary Clinton, due to become US secretary of state in a week’s time, said Barack Obama’s administration would make “every effort” to forge peace but ruled out talks with Hamas. “You cannot negotiate with Hamas until it renounces violence, recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements,” she told a Senate confirmation hearing. “That is just for me an absolute.”

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and with Mubarak, pressing them “for the specific measures necessary to deliver a full and sustainable ceasefire.” Brown’s office said he was “deeply troubled” by the suffering in Gaza, urged Israel to respect its humanitarian commitments and called on Arab leaders to “say more clearly that Hamas must disarm.” (Middle East Online, Ma’an News Agency, Jan. 14

More rockets fall from Lebanon
At least three Katyusha rockets fired from south Lebanon struck Israel’s upper Galilee early Jan. 14. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, and Hezbollah denied any involvement. Israel responded by shelling areas of south Lebanon. No injuries were reported on either side other than “shock,” while Israeli authorities ordered its northern citizens into bomb shelters. (Ma’an News Agency, AlJazeera, Jan. 14)

See our last post on Gaza.

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