UN chief deplores Gaza assault

Ban Ki-moon accuses Israel of using 'excessive' force after scores are killed.

    More than 60 Palestinians were killed
    on Saturday alone[AFP]

    Ban said: "While recognising Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children ... I call on Israel to cease such attacks."

    "I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism."
    In protest against the Israeli offensive, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, has formally suspended all contacts with Israel.

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    "The negotiations are suspended, as are all contacts on all levels, because in light of the Israeli aggression such communication has no meaning," Nabil Abu Rudeina, an Abbas spokesman, said in a statement.

    However, there is no sign that the Israeli government is ready to call off an offensive that took troops deeper into Gaza on Saturday and in larger numbers than at any time since Israel ended a military occupation of Gaza in 2005.

    West Bank clashes
    On Sunday, fresh Israeli strikes killed three Palestinians in northern Gaza.

    Earlier, witnesses said Israeli aircraft attacked the office of Ismail Haniya, the ousted Palestinian prime minister, in Gaza City.
    As Gazans mourned the dead, clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops erupted in the Shufat refugee camp in occupied East Jerusalem, Hebron, and Belin as well as other areas across the West Bank.
    Hundreds of West Bank residents, holding Hamas and Fatah flags, also staged rallies and appealed for national unity.


    In a related development, Egypt has agreed to open the Rafah border crossing to let injured Palestinians receive medical treatment, Al Jazeera’s correspondent reported.

    Daniel Carmon, a senior Israeli diplomat, dismissed suggestions Israel was guilty of war crimes.

    "Hamas bears sole responsibility for the violence," he told the security council.

    Jacky Rowland, reporting from Gaza, said that Hamas officials were being targeted in the ongoing Israeli operations.

    She said: "Police officers have been told to leave their posts, as there is mounting speculation that police stations are now targeted by the Israeli military."

    "Also, Haniya appeared on Friday - the first time he was seen in public for quite a while, adding to the possibility that Hamas officials are avoiding public appearances."

    UN discussion

    Al Jazeera's John Terret, reporting from New York, said that members of the UN security council discussed a draft resolution regarding the conflict in Gaza.

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    He said: "The Libyan delegation representing the Palestinians have put forward a draft, and it is now subject to debate from the members."
    But diplomats have reportedly said that the security council was unlikely to adopt a Libyan resolution that condemns Israel's killing of civilians, but makes no mention of Palestinian rocket fire.
    Western diplomats say the Libyan resolution would not pass unless it was amended to condemn the Palestinian rocket attacks and dropped language suggesting Israel was guilty of terrorism.

    The blooshed in Gaza jeopardises US-backed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
    Children killed
    Rana el-Hindi from Save the Children, speaking from inside the Gaza Strip, told Al Jazeera that children were suffering greatly from the Israeli bombardment.

    "In the last three days at least 19 children have been killed ... it's a real concern for all organisations here," she said.

    "Most of the time, when we go into the field and talk to the children about their fears and concerns, they are always afraid of a new [Israeli] invasion to the Gaza Strip - and obviously the current situation is just ... what they fear."

    She said the number of children being hospitalised was increasing "day after day".

    In video

    Al Jazeera's Nour Odeh on the situation in Gaza

    Eissam Younis, director of the Al Mizan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, told Al Jazeera that the Israeli army was "intentionally and systematically targeting civilians" and criticised world powers for their muted response.

    "Israel puts itself above the law because the international community is always silent," he said.

    Israeli incursion

    The main Israeli operation began before dawn on Saturday.

    Israeli tanks, supported by helicopters, pushed into the town and refugee camp of Jabaliya in the northern Gaza Strip and continued the assault throughout the day.

    More than 150 people were wounded in the operation, Dr Muawiya Hassanein, the head of Gaza's emergency services, said.

    At least 16 of the Palestinians killed were fighters - including 13 from Hamas, two from Islamic Jihad and one from the Popular Resistance Committees.

    Rockets from Gaza have hit Israeli towns
    near the Gaza border [AFP]

    Witnesses said many of the deaths in Jabaliya occurred as a result of gun battles between Palestinian fighters and Israeli soldiers.

    Tariq Dardouna, a Palestinian resident trapped in his house in east Jabaliya, told Al Jazeera that Israeli forces were targeting civilians.

    "The Israeli army opens fire at everything in our area, including children and houses. There are injured children bleeding inside their houses," Dardouna said.

    'Possible escalation'

    Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, has said that Israel needed to prepare for a possible escalation of military action in the Gaza Strip.

    "We will continue our action with all our strength and we need to prepare for escalation, because a broad ground operation is real and tangible," he said.
    One aim of any large-scale incursion into Gaza would be to "weaken the Hamas rule ... in the right circumstances even bring it down," he said.

    In Israel, six people were wounded, one of them seriously, by long-range rockets fired from the Gaza Strip on Saturday, the Israeli army said.
    Fighters in Gaza fired over 40 rockets and mortars at southern Israel.
    Eight of the missiles were long-range rockets that travelled as far as the seaside Israeli town of Ashkelon, some 11km north of the Gaza Strip.
    Palestinian fighters have launched frequent volleys of rockets and mortars at Israeli communities near the Gaza border, though the missile attacks rarely cause injuries.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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