US admonishes Israel, criticizes Hamas over attacks (Second lead)

December 28th, 2008 - 12:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Dec 28 (DPA) The United States has urged Israel restraint in its military operations in the Gaza Strip, but simultaneously offered sharp criticism of Hamas, the organization effectively governing the salient.White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Israel needs to avoid civilian deaths in its operations against Hamas. But, in the same statement, Johndroe also lambasted Hamas for its attacks on Israel and its support for terrorism.

Meanwhile, the White House said US President George W. Bush, who is at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, for Christmas vacation, has discussed the Middle East situation with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and received briefing on the Israeli air strikes from his national security adviser Stephen Hadley.

The president also talked over the phone to Saudi King Abdullah on the Middle East, said Johndroe without providing further information.

Bush, however, was not expected to make a public statement on the Israeli operations.

US president-elect Barack Obama, who is in Hawaii for his holiday, is also “closely monitoring the Gaza situation”, said his spokesperson on national security Brooke Anderson.

Rice called for an immediate restoration of the ceasefire, which ended on Dec 19.

“We strongly condemn the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and hold Hamas responsible for breaking the ceasefire and for the renewal of violence there,” Rice said in a statement.

Israel unleashed waves of airstrikes against the Gaza Strip Saturday, targeting Hamas installations and personnel, and killing 225 people, most of them militants, in a long-expected response to the more than 180 rockets fired at Israel from the salient in the past week.

After a brief lull Israeli warplanes Saturday night resumed bombardments on targets of the Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, including security installations and roads, witnesses and security officials said.

Witnesses said the warplanes destroyed the main road of Sallah el-Dein in the northern Gaza Strip that leads to the towns of Beit Hanoun, Beit Lahia and Jabalia. There were, however, no immediate reports of casualties.

Hamas officials in Gaza said that an air-to-ground rocket destroyed a metal workshop in the northern Gaza City. Israel said the facility was used to manufacture crude rockets.

the warplanes also bombed a building of a Hamas affiliated social organisation in the Gaza City.

Tel Aviv began a military operation named “the poured lead” on the Gaza Strip in response to the rocket attacks by Hamas-led militant groups on southern Israeli towns and cities.

Mo’aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency and ambulance services of the Palestine health ministry said that at least 225 people were killed and around 750 others wounded in the air strikes.

Residents in the Gaza City said that they still hear sounds of Israeli helicopters and warplanes hovering over the city.

Israel said the intensive airstrike was the first stage of a large-scale military operation against the Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, said in a statement that the Islamic movement “will not surrender”, adding that, “the Palestinian people and Hamas movement “would keep their resistance against the Zionist enemy (Israel)”.

Earlier at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said that the army will continue to operate in Gaza, as the efforts to bring back normalcy in southern Israel, the target of Hamas’ rocket attacks, would take time.

“We are not eager for a fight, but we will not back down from it,” Olmert said, adding that, “Israel has done all it could to preserve the ceasefire with Hamas, but our desire for peace was met with terror.”

The prime minister tried to ease the humanitarian concerns of the international community, saying that Israel will do whatever it can to prevent a humanitarian disaster in the impoverished area.

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