Senior Israeli officials warned last Sunday that they will step up their attacks against the Gaza Strip, vowing not to let the heavily populated area become a ‘second Lebanon’.
The IOF has said the offensive – launched after the capture of a soldier in a deadly cross-border raid from Gaza in June – is being conducted ‘against tunnels and other terror threats.’
But a UN special envoy for human rights, John Dugard, has accused Israel of unleashing ‘collective punishment’ in the territory, declaring last month that some 260 Palestinians had been killed and 800 wounded in the operation.’
The Israeli threats followed a series of deadly raids which left 22 Palestinians dead in the three days to Sunday, including a mother and three children.
‘Our policy is clear – we will deploy all our efforts to prevent these firings and this contraband,’ senior Israeli defence ministry official Amos Gilad told army radio.
‘This will include ground and air attacks on terrorists and their infrastructure,’ he added on Sunday.
‘Hamas, which is reinforcing itself, constitutes a threat to Israel’s security,’ Gilad claimed.
Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz had already approved a first intensification of Israel’s three-month-plus offensive in Gaza last Thursday, after rocket fire from the territory hit his southern hometown of Sderot, wounding three people.
Israel has not ruled out resuming control of the Gaza-Egypt border, the Palestinian territory’s sole link with the outside world that by-passes the Jewish state.
The anti-smuggling efforts of the lightly armed Egyptian guards who currently patrol the border ‘could be significantly improved,’ Gilad said, although he refused to be drawn on any Israeli plans to replace them.
‘We’ve learned from experience not to tackle such questions in public in order to preserve the element of surprise,’ he said.
At least seven Palestinians were killed and ten others were wounded, some seriously, in an Israeli air strike on Saturday morning in the northern Gaza Strip.
Eyewitnesses said an Israeli Apache fired at least seven missiles at a group of Palestinians, in Izbit Abed Rabbo area east of Jabalia.
Ambulances rushed to the site and evacuated the wounded to Al-Awda and Kamal Udwan hospitals, in Jabaliya.
Palestinian medical sources said that ambulances were targeted by the Apache which delayed their arrival to evacuate the wounded.
The killed were identified as Ramez Abu Rashid, Sakher Abu Jabal, Awwad Atatwa, Mahmoud Shaqqoura, Ahmad Abul Eish, Suleiman and Fayez Al-’Err. Al-Qassam brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, declared that all the seven are members of the brigade.
Medical sources at Kamal Udwan hospital said the bodies were severely mutilated as result the of a strike, where two of the wounded are clinically dead, identified as Hani Al-Masri and Hani Siyam, whereas the rest suffered moderate wounds.
Earlier, a mother of five was killed in addition to another ten Palestinians by Israeli Occupation Forces in the Gaza Strip, in a series of offensives and air strikes, which started Thursday’s dawn, according to Palestinians medical sources
The mother, Zahra Qadah, 23, was killed last Friday morning when Israeli occupation army troops opened fire at residents’ houses in Al Faraheen village east of Khan Younis south of the Gaza strip.
Qadah was killed while standing in her own backyard, by special units stationed on the roof of an occupied house, who opened fire at residents’ houses, eyewitnesses said.
Medical sources stated that, Qadah, sustained multiple wounds to the chest and head, killing her instantly.
IOF Tanks and army bulldozers participated in the offensive as snipers took positions on the roofs of occupied homes.
Palestinian sources also said that an Israeli missile struck a car in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahia last Friday, killing three Hamas activists. Among the dead was a local commander.
Earlier, seven Palestinians were killed in a series of Israeli air raids on Gaza Strip, medical sources said.
An Israeli missile fired from an unmanned plane, killing two Palestinians, including a girl, and wounded more than ten others in the Shija’ia neighbourhood in Gaza City, local residents and hospital staff said.
An Israeli army spokesman confirmed the attack was aimed at a senior member from the armed wing of Hamas, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, named Ashraf Ferwana but local residents said Ferwana survived, although his brother was killed.
In the early hours of Friday, Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships entered the southern Gaza village of Absan under cover of darkness, touching off clashes.
At least three Hamas members were killed along with two bystanders, a man and his teenage son.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine resistance faction armed wing, the Martyr Abu-Ali Mustafa Brigades – Martyr Isma’il al-Su’aydani Unit, has vowed that if Israeli soldiers invade the Gaza Strip, the Brigades will make it a stop for them on their way to hell.
In a statement, the Brigades said that the recent statements of the ‘entity’s war commanders, who have not stopped pounding the drums of war, are part of the escalation of their aggression against the Palestinian people in their refugee camps, cities and villages, which has continued unabated.
‘Israel’s continuing arrogant campaign aims at harming the Palestinians’ great steadfastness and bold resistance, following the shameful Israeli defeat that was inflicted upon them by the knights of the Islamic resistance in Lebanon.
‘Israel is doing this in a futile attempt to retrieve its lost honour and score a temporary victory that would save (Israeli Premier) Olmert’s government from its crisis.
‘It is trying to overcome the worsening state of frustration and despair among its military commanders, who were defeated by the strong resistance in the fighting in southern Lebanon.’
The statement added: ‘By invading the northern Gaza Strip, the enemy army has started implementing its plan.
‘Therefore, this army has started to pave its path to hell. It will only harvest definite death in every street, refugee camp and alley in which the invading Zionists’ feet step.’
It further noted: ‘We in Martyr Abu-Ali Mustafa Brigades – Martyr Isma’il al-Su’aydani Unit, affirm the following:
‘Every piece of land in our dear Gaza Strip will become a battlefield, which we will enter while inspired by the lessons from the victorious south (of Lebanon).
‘We declare a state of maximum alert among our fighters and our complete preparedness to confront this arrogant aggression alongside all the resistance factions.
‘We call on all Palestinian people and their brave fighters to combine and unite their efforts in this confrontation and to put aside all the internal differences that are weakening our forces.
‘We call on all Palestinian people to practice solidarity and mutual support, which are needed in order to create a supporting environment that will enable the resistance to score a victory in this aggression.’