Israeli warplanes carried out some 20 strikes in the Gaza Strip overnight, destroying a mosque in the northern town of Jabaliya that the military said was a “terror hub.” As the air offensive entered its seventh day, Hamas ordered a “day of wrath” against Israel over the killing of a senior commander. Israeli security personnel are on alert following Hamas’ call for “massive marches” following Friday’s Muslim prayers throughout the Occupied Territoires. The army is also enforcing a 48-hour lock-down of the West Bank, with movement in and out of the territory prohibited except for emergencies. At least 422 Palestinians have now been killed in the air campaign, and some 1,850 injured.
Hamas issued its call in response to the death of Nizar Rayan, and several of his wives and children in a targeted air-strike. Rayan is the most senior Hamas official killed since the movement’s co-founders Sheik Ahmed Yassin and Abdulaziz Rantisi died in Israeli air-strikes less than a month apart in 2004. Hamas has broached a return to suicide attacks in response to Rayan’s killing. “After the last crime, all options are open to counter this aggression, including martyr operations against Zionist targets everywhere,” Hamas official Ismail Radwan warned.
Several houses were also destroyed in the overnight air raids. In what appeared to be a new tactic, the Israeli military telephoned at least some of the 20 houses it destroyed to warn them in advance about the impending strikes. Vehicles and border tunnels were also again struck. For the first time, Israel began allowing those holding foreign passports to leave the Strip.
Israeli tanks and troops are massed on Gaza’s border for a threatened ground offensive. Hamas rockets have continued to hit Israeli towns, bringing the total of such strikes since the Israeli air offensive began to over 20, but caused no further casualties. (Middle East Online, The Guardian, LAT, BBC World Service, Jan. 2)
See our last post on Gaza.
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