Gaza toll rises to 854

January 11th, 2009 - 7:08 am ICT by IANS  

Gaza, Jan 11 (Xinhua) The toll in the Israeli military operation against the Islamic Hamas-led militant groups in the Gaza Strip has risen to 854, emergency officials here said.The air and ground offensives continued in Gaza Saturday as the Israeli operation entered its 15th day.

Gaza emergency chief Mo’aweya Hassanein told reporters the death toll has reached 854 since the Israeli operation began Dec 27. More than 3,500 people were wounded, he added.

He said 18 bodies were found Saturday under the rubbles of a destroyed house.

Witnesses said Israeli warplanes carried out a series of airstrikes on northern and southern Gaza Strip as well as in the main Gaza City Saturday night. Armored tanks also continued its shelling.

Hassanein said 11 Palestinians were killed Saturday night, while 19 more were killed during the day. More than 70 people were injured in the attacks.

In one Israeli airstrike on a house in Beit Lahia town in northern Gaza, three members of a family were killed, he added.

Witnesses said a Hamas militant’s house was bombed in central Gaza where several people were injured. A factory was also targeted and destroyed.

In Rafah town in southern Gaza, Israeli warplanes destroyed a road that connects the Strip with Egypt. Several houses and underground tunnels in the area were also destroyed in the strikes.

Several Israeli civilians were also injured Saturday when a Hamas rocket hit a house in Israel’s southern costal town of Ashkelon.

Militants in Gaza said in leaflets that they fired Russian-made and homemade rockets at Israel.

Meanwhile, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal Saturday said in a televised statement in Damascus that his group would consider a truce, if Israel stopped its attacks on Gaza and lift its Gaza blockade.

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