Israeli airstrikes kill at least 155 in Gaza (Lead)

December 27th, 2008 - 9:04 pm ICT by IANS  

Gaza, Dec 27 (DPA) Airstrikes by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) targeting the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas in the Gaza Strip killed 155 people Saturday, the highest single-day death toll since the 1967 Middle East War.More than 300 people were injured in the strikes, security and medical officials said.

Gaza militants responded by firing at least 24 rockets at southern Israel. One person was killed and six injured when a missile hit a home in Netivot, 10 km west of the Strip. Residents of Israeli towns and villages near the Strip were ordered to remain at home and in bomb shelters.

At least 30 simultaneous aerial missile strikes targeted military facilities and fighters belonging to Hamas, sources from the movement and the IDF confirmed, in a massive retaliation for over 180 rockets and mortars fired at southern Israel from the Gaza Strip during the past week.

Hamas reported that Tawfiq Jaber, chief of the movement’s police organisation in the territory, was killed in the airstrikes, which had taken place within a few minutes Saturday morning.

All the Hamas’ security installations in the Gaza Strip were bombed, and columns of black smoke could be seen rising from dozens of locations across the territory.

Artillery fire was also reported against Palestinian militants firing rockets into Israel. Witnesses in Gaza said Israeli artillery fire struck at militants who had fired rockets into Israel west of the town of Beit Lahiya, in the north of the Gaza Strip, injuring several militants.

Civilian vehicles were helping ambulances in ferrying the wounded to Gaza’s hospitals, and hospitals were urging civilians to donate blood, Palestinian medical sources said.

The attacks, although an expected response to a wave of rocket fire by the Hamas military wing and other Gaza militant groups since the end of a ceasefire Dec 19, came as a surprise, as previous Israeli media reports had not expected a decision to strike before Sunday.

A statement released by the IDF said that the targets included “Hamas terror operatives that operated from the organisation’s headquarters, training camps and weaponry storage warehouses”.

All the targets were “were located by intelligence gathered during the last months”, the statement said, and added that the attacks would continue “according to operational assessments held by the Chief of the General Staff”.

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, called for an immediate end to “Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip”.

“We are still expecting the worst,” he said. “This aggression clearly is not a single act, rather it has a broader goal and therefore we should act quickly,” he added.

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