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Middle East
Reaction: Raids take toll on Gaza
Commentators, witnesses and political figures share their thoughts on Israel's assault.
Last Modified: 29 Dec 2008 12:35 GMT

Nearly three hundred people have been killed by two days of air raids on the Gaza Strip [AFP] 

Speaking to Al Jazeera, commentators, witnesses and political figures share their thoughts on the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip.

Gary Grant, international law expert

"Any country's first duty is to protect its citizens, it's called self-defence. The question is, is that self-defence proportionate.

Under international law, two things need to be satisfied for Israel's actions to be considered lawful. One is that they are aiming at legitimate military objects. Israel would say that they are striking at legitimate infrastructure. And of course Hamas is an organisation intent on the destruction of Israel and the Jews in Israel as part of its covenant.
 
"Secondly, is it proportional? ... It's not simply a case of calculating the number of Israelis that have been killed by rockets, to the number of Palestinians killed in these attacks.
 
"The question is, are these attacks proportionate to the military objective trying to be achieved? Israel would argue with some force that what they are trying to achieve is to prevent Hamas, an organisation set up to destroy Israel, from strockpiling the weapons, and it's doing that by destroying the infrastructure.
 
"If someone were to run at me, a knife-wielding lunatic, I don't have to wait for that knife to enter my heart, before I'm about to respond. I'm allowed to take pre-emptive action, in order to stop it.
 
"Killing civilians is tragic, but it is not against international law. It is accepted in international law, that even if you target military sites, you are going to kill civilians. If you fire rockets and missiles, that is what is going to happen.
 
"But in this case, it is not the deliberate targeting of civilians, it is the targeting of infrastructure and military targets. Civilians tragically do get caught up in it. It needs to be contrasted with Hamas, where every single target is at a civilian population.
 
"The UN can do very little to intervene, and with the UK and US with the power of a veto, nothing is going to happen."

Mohamed Al-Kashaf, director-general for Gaza's hospitals

"It is a desperate situation. More than 210 cases arrived within 15 minutes of the bombardment and it was very, very big chaos.

"All the staff tried to do their best. This disaster is more than what we can do, or more even than any big hospital can manage, so really, it was something horrible.

"We opened the operating rooms - six operating rooms. We [also] ... shifted injured people to the maternity hospital."

David Segal, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman

"We're trying to target Hamas, which is a terrorist government, an enemy of peace that has been targeting, on purpose, Israeli civilian communities for years now.

"It violated the ceasefire in a one-sided way. The world called on Hamas to stop, we called on Hamas to stop. But the rockets continue crashing into Israeli homes, destroying the lives of a half a million people on the Israeli side of the border.

"The responsibility falls squarely on the heads of Hamas, that continues firing rockets on Israeli civilians on purpose, endangering civilians on both sides of the border."

Christopher Gunness, United Nations Relief and Works Agency spokesman

"Civilians are being caught in the crossfire. Yesterday, there was a particular tragedy for UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency]. Of course, we're extremely sad about everything that's going on - very disturbed by all the violence.

"But seven of our students, who were near where an air strike took place, were killed instantaneously by shrapnel and flying debris. Twenty others were injured and taken to hospital. Of course, the hospitals, as they say, are overwhelmed.

"So we hope that - and we would welcome, as we always do - an investigation or some kind of reporting into the killing of civilians. The facts must be out there, the facts must speak for themselves.

Source:
Al Jazeera
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