Israeli airstrikes have pounded Gaza for a sixth day successive day, raising to 92 the number of Palestinians killed, as the UN Secretary General calls for an immediate ceasefire. Three people, including two children, were killed and 30 others were injured in the latest air strike before dawn on Monday on a family home in the Zeitoun neighbourhood in Gaza City, medical officials said.
Gaza health officials said that 84 Palestinians, at least 23 of them children and several women, had been killed since Israel's airstrikes began. Hundreds of others have been wounded and Palestinian hospitals are struggling to cope.
The Israeli army said it had fired missiles at over 1,300 locations in Gaza since Wednesday, and that 544 rockets were fired back against Israel. Three Israelis have been killed and a few dozen wounded. The army said that some 302 rockets were intercepted by Iron Dome and 99 failed to reach Israel and landed inside Gaza.
Ashraf al-Kidra, a spokesperson of the health ministry in Gaza, said on Sunday that civilians accounted for half of the Palestinian death toll. More than 750 other Palestinians have been wounded.
In the single deadliest attack of the Israeli operation so far, 12 civilians were killed in Sunday's air attack on a four-storey house in northern Gaza City, health officials said. Two or three missiles fired by F-16 fighter jets reduced the house in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood to rubble, witnesses said. Five women, including one 80-year-old, and four small children were among the dead, Kidra said. The Israeli military said that they had mistakenly bombed the home due to a technical error while targeting a senior Hamas official, the Haaretz newspaper reported.
The report says that the military admitted killing mainly "unarmed civilians, including children and infants", and that the source of the error was either the failure to paint the target of the attack on the correct site or that one of the munitions in the strike misfired.
There is the usual discussion over where to locate responsibility for the initial act in this renewed upsurge violence. Is it some shots fired from Gaza across the border and aimed at an armoured Israeli jeep or was it the targeted killing by an Israeli missile of Ahmed Jabari, leader of the military wing of Hamas, a few days later? Or some other act by one side or the other? Or is it the continuous violence against the people of Gaza arising from the blockade that has been imposed since mid-2007? The assassination of Jabari came a few days after an informal truce that had been negotiated through the good offices of Egypt, and quite ironically agreed to by none other than Jabari acting on behalf of Hamas. Killing him was clearly intended as a major provocation, disrupting a carefully negotiated effort to avoid another tit-for-tat sequence of violence of the sort that has periodically taken place during the last several years.
An assassination of such a high profile Palestinian political figure as Jabari is not a spontaneous act. It is based on elaborate surveillance over a long period, and is obviously planned well in advance partly with the hope of avoiding collateral damage, and thus limiting unfavourable publicity. Such an extra-judicial killing, although also part and parcel of the new American ethos of drone warfare, remains an unlawful tactic of conflict, denying adversary political leaders separated from combat any opportunity to defend themselves against accusations, and implies a rejection of any disposition to seek a peaceful resolution of a political conflict. It amounts to the imposition of capital punishment without due process, a denial of elementary rights to confront an accuser.
Putting aside the niceties of law, the Israeli leadership knew exactly what it was doing when it broke the truce and assassinated such a prominent Hamas leader, someone generally thought to be second only to the Gaza prime minister, Ismail Haniya. There have been rumours, and veiled threats, for months that the Netanyahu government plans a major assault of Gaza, and the timing of the ongoing attacks seems to coincide with the dynamics of Israeli internal politics, especially the traditional Israeli practice of shoring up the image of toughness of the existing leadership in Tel Aviv as a way of inducing Israeli citizens to feel fearful, yet protected, before casting their ballots.
Among the latest horrifying examples of incitement to mass murder by Israeli public figures, Gilad Sharon, the son of former prime minister and notorious war criminal Ariel Sharon, has called for the Israeli army to “flatten” Gaza as the US flattened the Japanese city of Hiroshima in 1945 with an atomic bomb.
This still means that as of Saturday night Israel had spent roughly $29m on interceptor missiles in three days
But the danger to the zone around Tel Aviv is growing because the Palestinians have acquired Soviet-designed Grad rockets and reportedly some Iranian Fajrs as well.
Some of these new weapons have hit the southern outskirts of greater Tel Aviv in recent months and can also reach the heavily guarded Dimona nuclear reactor in the Negev Desert.
ISTANBUL - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel on Monday of carrying out "terrorist acts" in its bombardment of Gaza. "Those who associate Islam with terrorism close their eyes in the face of mass killing of Muslims, turn their heads from the massacre of children in Gaza," Erdogan told a conference of the Eurasian Islamic Council in Istanbul. "For this reason, I say that Israel is a terrorist state, and its acts are terrorist acts."
According to Britain’s Sunday Times, Israeli special forces are already on the ground in Gaza seeking out rockets and weapons for targeting.
The Times is also reporting that Hamas may place chemical weapons on its long-range missiles.
“Hamas might go for a desperate attempt to launch rockets with chemical warheads if the worst came to the worst,” one unnamed source reported.