Egyptian forces turn back fleeing refugees – as attacks on Gaza escalate

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ISRAELI shells hit the Gaza tunnels last Sunday evening, killing two and injuring 22.

The blasts also prompted hundreds to race for new gaps in Egypt’s border wall. But refugees were met by Egyptian security forces, who used force to repel the crowds.

Airstrikes damaged the border wall between Egypt and Gaza and at least 40 smuggling tunnels, which bring food and fuel into the coastal area. Much of the fuel caught fire during the attacks and large fires broke out along the border.

The chaos provided cover for hundreds of tunnel workers and Rafah residents to attempt an escape from the bombarded Strip. But early reports indicated that no Palestinians actually made it over the border wall.

The strikes marked the 36-hour point in Israel’s ‘Operation Cast Lead’, which has seen nearly 300 killed and over 1,000 injured.

The tunnels, about a quarter of which are now destroyed, are the only means by which Gazans have to obtain food, fuel and other necessities. Israel has closed the strip’s crossings for all but a week and a half since its November 4th invasion of the area that effectively marked the end of a truce that began June 19th.

Hospitals ran out of medical supplies shortly after the violence escalated and Israeli airstrikes demolished a medical supply warehouse and fuel supply container on Sunday, leaving no reserves for injured Gazans.

Israeli airstrikes continued on Gaza throughout Saturday night and into Sunday afternoon. The death toll of the attacks rose to 292, with more than 1,000 injured, 180 of them seriously.

Israel began attacks on Gaza at 11.30am Saturday, ostensibly to root out Palestinian military groups launching rockets at Israeli targets.

Two massive waves of strikes kicked off Operation Cast Lead, and strikes have continued throughout the night and early morning.

The death toll rises with each strike, and as more bodies are pulled out of Saturday’s rubble. A timeline of the latest attacks on Sunday is as follows:

17.30 Hundreds of Gaza residents climb border walls toward Egypt; Egyptian border police use force to prevent entry

1.30 Two dead, 22 injured in Israeli airstrike on Rafah tunnels

14.30 Israeli airstrikes over Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza

13.45 Israeli airstrike hits near school in Az-Zaitoun neighborhood in Gaza City

12.00 Israeli forces launch fresh raids against governmental compound known as ‘As-Saraya,’ killing one child and injuring several others

11.45 Israeli bombs target city council offices in Beit Hanoun; several injured

11.00 Israel bombs temporary headquarters of Rafah governorate, injuring several Palestinians; original building destroyed in Saturday’s attacks

10.30 Israeli jets target jeep in Zaitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, killing one child; second strike hits Jabalia but no casualties reported

10.00 Three killed after Israeli forces bombard police station in Shuja’iyya neighborhood of Gaza City; three homes destroyed in Tal Al-Hawa neighborhood

08.00 Israeli raid targets two de facto government police buildings in evacuated Israeli settlement of Kfar Darum, Al-Matahin

07.30 Al-Qarara greenhouses obliterated in strike in southern Gaza, killing one civilian identified as Nabil Abu Tu’eima

07.15 Bombs hit Shuja’iyya neighborhood in Gaza City, another hits military base called ‘Sa’d Sayil’ in Rafah; Dozens injured

06:45 Israeli bombs land on Gaza City’s Shuja’iyya neighbourhood, where police centre destroyed, several injured

06.30 Airstrike on a medical storehouse in Al-Junayna neighbourhood and another on a fuel storehouse in Tal As-Sultan, both in Rafah; three killed

01.00 Israeli fighter jets bombard security room facing Ash-Shifa Hospital in Gaza City; jets hit a mosque in the compound, killing two and injuring seven

00.00 Three Palestinian fighters killed when Israeli strike hits Al-Mansura area, east of Gaza City

The Director of Ambulance and Emergency Services in the de facto Palestinian Ministry of Health, Muawiya Hassanein, explained that despite media reports to the contrary, a large number of the casualties are civilians, including women and children.

On Saturday two massive waves of airstrikes dropped 100 bombs on Gaza at 11.30 and a second at approximately 2.00pm. Smaller strikes hit northern Gaza at 5.30 and 8.00pm.

Israeli strikes targeted Hamas government buildings; one Hamas source told reporters ‘every de facto security building was targeted.’ Confirmed casualties include Commander of the Hamas Government Police Tawfiq Jabir, Governor of the Al-Wusta (central) Districts Ahmad Abu Aashur and Commander of Security and Protection Services in the Hamas government police Ismail Al-Ja’bari.

Islam Shahwan, a Hamas police spokesman, said that the attacks destroyed most of the police headquarters in the Gaza Strip and that a police graduation ceremony was being held during the assault.

Hamas on Saturday charged that the Israeli occupation forces’ (IOF) carnage in the Gaza Strip was made with the green light of regional parties and constituted a mass execution of the Gaza people.

Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman, in a statement, pointed out that the raids came 24 hours after Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni’s visit to Cairo where it met with the Egyptian president and senior officials then talked in a press conference about toppling Hamas’s rule in Gaza.

He said that such a massacre was possible thanks to Arab silence, European collusion and American support for Israeli occupation.

‘This bloody day was never witnessed before in the Gaza Strip’, Barhoum underlined, adding that 150 martyrs fell in less than half an hour while 200 others were injured.

He finally asked the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, to strongly retaliate to the IOF aggression and to use all means available to defend the Palestinian people.

Meanwhile, protests against Israeli airstrikes in Gaza continued across the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday while a comprehensive strike was declared throughout the country.

In Ni’lin, weekly Friday protests continued until Sunday, when clashes erupted between protesters and Israeli soldiers. The clashes saw one Palestinian killed and six others injured.

The slain man was identified as A’raft Al-Khwaja.

Among the injured was Mohammad Al-Khawaja, who was shot in the head. He and others were transferred to a Ramallah hospital.

At Shufat Refugee Camp in East Jerusalem, hundreds of youths rallied and threw stones at Israeli soldiers and traffic, where one child was lightly injured.

In Hebron, youths hurled Molotov cocktails at an Israeli military post near the Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City. Others set fire to car tyres near an Israeli military post. One settler was reported injured after being hit by a stone.

In Ramallah, the Palestinian National Initiative organised a sit-in at the centre of the city, where placards denounced the Israeli attacks and expressed solidarity with Gaza. Protestors carried Palestinian flags and banners that denounced the world’s silence on the ‘massacres.’

In Bethlehem, city officials announced that Manger Square’s Christmas lights would be turned off as the West Bank mourns the loss of hundreds of Palestinians and prays for a safe recovery of the nearly 1,000 injured.