Israeli army kills 46 Palestinians in Gaza

March 2nd, 2008 - 1:20 am ICT by admin  

(Second Lead)
Gaza, March 1 (DPA) The Israeli army killed 46 Palestinians and wounded 200 Saturday in a large-scale ground operation in the northern Gaza Strip, Palestinian medical sources said. The sources said Israeli warplanes and tanks fired missiles and shells at houses and individuals in the area. At least 20 of the victims were civilians, including four women and six children.

Mo’aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency and ambulance services at the Palestinian health ministry, told reporters: “It is the highest ever figure of death casualties in the Gaza Strip. I have never witnessed such a high death toll since I started my career 20 years ago.”

The Israeli incursion has left around 80 Palestinians dead since Wednesday, Palestinian sources said.

The highest number of death casualties in a single day was in November last year, when the Israeli army killed 21 Palestinians.

Hassanein warned of a humanitarian disaster if Israeli airstrikes were allowed to go on, referring to the lack of medical support and fuel for ambulances after more than eight months of Israeli closure on the Gaza Strip.

Several militant groups, including Hamas and Islamic Jihad, meanwhile claimed to have launched dozens more homemade rockets and mortars at Israel despite the offensive.

Two Israeli soldiers were reported killed in eastern Jabalia in the northern Gaza Strip and four wounded, and 10 Israelis were reported injured.

Speaking to members of the Palestinian National Council (PNC), Palestinian President Abbas said: “What is actually happening in Gaza is more than a holocaust.

“I do not think what Israel is doing is in retaliation to the missiles, which we condemn,” said Abbas.

Hamas police sources said dozens of Israeli army tanks backed by helicopters and drones attacked an area east of Jabalia town in the northern Gaza Strip, with heavy gun battles erupting.

On Friday, Israeli Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai had said unless Palestinians in Gaza stopped firing missiles into Israel, they would face a “holocaust”.

His statement provoked widespread condemnation and concern that Israel intended to escalate its military operation in the Gaza Strip.

Abbas also called on all militant groups to stop launching rockets at Israel, adding, “This would help in ending the suffering of our people and avoid them more disasters.”

Palestinian negotiator Yasser Abed also called for a stop to Palestinian rocket fire, saying that “the Israeli occupation exploits them to kill more victims.”

Meanwhile, the European Commission representative in Jerusalem expressed concern over the impact of Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip.

“This loss of life highlights even more the need to find a political solution to what is essentially a political crisis,” John Kjaer said in a statement issued by his office.

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