Monday, December 29, 2008

Palestinian death toll rises to 325

The toll of Palestinians killed by Israel's three-day bombing campaign in Gaza today rose to at least 325 as Israeli jets bombed a university's science laboratories and hit the interior ministry in a widening series of air strikes.

The Israeli defence minister, Ehud Barak - who has already said his government does not want another ceasefire with the Islamist Hamas movement - said his army was fighting a "war to the bitter end".

Israel declared the border area around Gaza a closed military zone which, together with preparations for a call-up of thousands of reservists, could suggest a large ground invasion is planned next. Barak said the military campaign would be "widened and deepened as needed".

The number of civilians killed in the fighting continued to rise. The UN Relief and Works Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees and has large programmes in Gaza, said it believed at least 57 civilians were among the dead, but described that as a conservative estimate.

The overall number of injured is thought to be as high as 1,400, although Gazan hospitals are so overcrowded and short of medicine and equipment that they are turning away all but the most seriously wounded.

The number of rockets fired from Gaza rose yesterday to at least 60, causing one Israeli fatality. Around 18 civilians in Israel have now been killed by rockets fired from Gaza in the past eight years.

"The continuing aim of the operation is to vastly decrease the capability of Hamas to launch rockets on Israeli civilians and to improve the long term security situation along Israel's border with Gaza," Captain Benjamin Rutland, an Israeli military spokesman, said.

When asked whether a ground invasion was planned, Rutland said the Israeli military had "a range of tools available to it", adding: "Anyone who is a member of Hamas, which is a terrorist organisation, is a legitimate target."

YOu can read the rest of the report at this link: 325

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