More than 360 dead in Israel’s Gaza offensive (Lead)

December 30th, 2008 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Gaza/Tel Aviv, Dec 30 (DPA) At least 10 people died Tuesday on the fourth day of Israeli airstrikes across Gaza, bringing the Palestinian toll of Operation Cast Lead to more than 360 dead and 1,700 injured.Two sisters, aged four and 11, were killed immediately when the donkey cart they were riding in Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza City, was hit by an Israeli missile, Gaza emergency services chief Mo’awia Hassanein said.

Seven other Palestinians died when Israeli F16
fighter jets bombed the house of a Hamas commander in the same town.

The house was empty, since Hamas has evacuated all of its buildings since the campaign started Saturday. According to Palestinian security officials, the dead were neighbours and

A guard at a UN-run school in the southern Gaza Strip town of Khan Younis was also killed by shrapnel from missiles that targeted a nearby Hamas police station.

A defiant Hamas stepped up its attacks against Israel late Monday, showering towns near the strip
with dozens of rockets. Several rockets reached towns that had not previously been targeted.

The attacks were a signal that Hamas still has a limited, but unknown number, of longer-range, imported rockets in its arsenal, in addition to many self-made Qassam rockets.

More than 80 rockets and mortars struck Israel Monday.

Two Israelis were killed in the heavy barrage late Monday, bringing the Israeli toll since Saturday to four dead and several dozen injured.

The dead included a woman who was fatally injured when a rocket launched toward Ashdod took her by surprise as she was driving in the southern Israeli port city, more than 30 km from the Gaza Strip.

It marked the farthest a rocket fired from the salient has landed in Israel. Rockets have previously landed south of the city, but this
was the first time one actually hit Ashdod.

An Israeli military spokeswoman in Tel Aviv said some 30 targets were struck inside the Gaza Strip early Tuesday, after some 70 were hit Monday.

Those targets again included the Gaza City
government headquarters of Hamas, the radical Islamic movement in virtual control of the strip.

The Israeli offensive, which started one week after an Egyptian-mediated truce formally ended, continued to focus on airstrikes.

However, Israel is also in the advanced stages of preparing for a possible ground offensive.

Large columns of tanks, military vehicles and buses with Israeli soldiers on board have moved southwards since Sunday.

The Israeli army Monday also declared the area around the Gaza Strip a “closed military zone,” meaning no civilians will be allowed through roadblocks set up on key entry roads.

The Israeli cabinet Sunday authorized the call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers, but a military spokesman said Monday these had yet to be mobilized.

Since the truce began disintegrating in early November, Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip have been completely shut to all but sporadic shipments of basic humanitarian supplies.

Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak authorized the entry Tuesday through Israel’s border crossing of Kerem Shalom with the southern Gaza Strip of some 100 trucks with basic food and medical supplies,
donated by Jordan, Turkey and international organizations.

Five Turkish-donated ambulances were also scheduled to enter Gaza Tuesday.

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