28 December 2008

At Least 280 Palestinians Killed as Israeli Airstrikes on Gaza Continue

Israel's Attack on Gaza -With the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon in the background, an explosion after an Israeli missile strike in the northern Gaza Strip is seen from southern Israel, next to Israel's border with the Gaza Strip (Sebastian Scheiner/AP Photo ) Israeli warplanes have struck Hamas militant targets in the Gaza Strip on the second day of an offensive that has killed at least 280 Palestinians.

Palestinian health workers say Israeli aircraft destroyed Hamas' main security complex in Gaza City Sunday, killing four people. Earlier, Israel's military bombed a Gaza City mosque that it says was a terrorist base, killing two people.

Israel's military deployed ground troops on the edge of Gaza while the Cabinet approved a callup of 6,500 reservists, suggesting plans to expand the offensive.

Gaza militants responded by firing scores of rockets into southern Israel today. Two rockets landed near the Israeli port of Ashdod, reaching deeper into Israel than any rocket previously fired from Gaza. No casualties were reported.

Gaza's streets were deserted and schools were closed. Israel also allowed an aid convoy into Gaza, slightly easing its blockade on the Hamas-run territory.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas criticized Hamas, saying it could have avoided the air strikes if it had extended a six-month truce with Israel. Mr. Abbas was speaking today on a visit to Cairo.

Palestinians carry a wounded man into the Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Tuesday, following an Israeli missile strike. Israeli aircraft dropped at least 16 bombs on five Hamas government buildings in a Gaza City complex, destroying them, setting fires and sending rubble flying for hundreds of yards, witnesses said. Rescue workers said 40 people were injured. (Khalil Hamra/AP Photo)

Palestinians officials in Gaza say the Israeli air assault that began Saturday has killed at least 280 people, including 180 Hamas security personnel. They say the attacks also have killed at least 15 Palestinian civilians and wounded 700 people.

Israel launched the offensive in response to an upsurge in rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza since Hamas declared an end to a truce with Israel on December 19. A rocket fired from Gaza on Saturday killed one Israeli and wounded several others.

On the first day of the offensive, Israeli aircraft destroyed more than 40 Hamas security installations across Gaza.

Hamas has vowed to avenge the attacks with more rocket strikes and suicide bombings. In Damascus, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal urged Palestinians to wage a new intifada or uprising against Israel.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.

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