ISRAELI forces killed 21 Palestinians in the early hours after midnight Thursday ignoring the UN Security Council agreement on a draft ceasefire resolution.
These included six members of the same family, and dozens more injured since midnight in the Gaza Strip.
Later in the morning, two sisters were killed by another airstrike in Beit Lahiya. The women were identified by medics as Fatima and Sumayah Sa’ed.
In the town of Al-Zawaydah, in the central Gaza Strip, three were killed and seven injured by shelling from Israeli gunboats. The victims were taken to Al-Aqsa Hospital.
In Al-Zawaydah town central in the Gaza Strip, three people were killed and seven were injured in the Israeli warships attacks and they were taken to the Al-Aqsa Hospital.
At the same hospital, nine corpses and 40 injured people arrived overnight, victims of an attempt by Israeli tanks to cut across the middle of the Gaza Strip to the sea. Israeli tanks have already cut across in one place further north.
Among those killed in the central Gaza incursion is a member of the Al-Quds Brigades, the armed wing of Islamic Jihad. The movement said Jihad Abu Mudif died after being seriously wounded in fighting with Israeli troops near the city of Khan Younis.
Israeli airstrikes demolished ten homes overnight, including the residence of the chief of police in Gaza Abu Obeida Al-Jarrah, in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City.
Warplanes also destroyed the house of the head of Palestinian security in the southern city of Rafah, a man who is said to be affiliated to Hamas’ armed wing.
A police station in the Zaytoun neighbourhood of Gaza was also demolishes, along with the Ar-Rebat Mosque in Khan Younis and an office linked to Islamic Jihad.
The United Nations Security Council on Thursday night overwhelmingly approved a resolution to halt fighting in the Gaza Strip.
Fourteen of the Security Council’s 15 member states voted in favour of the resolution, which was approved in draft hours beforehand. The United States abstained.
Western and Arab foreign ministers agreed on a UN draft resolution to stop the bloodshed in Gaza just after midnight on Friday (Gaza time). The Security Council then voted on the draft proposal at a closed-door session in New York within hours of the initial decision.
‘There’s an agreement accepting the amendments of the Arabs,’ Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Ryad Mansour said following the draft vote. Mansour added that Palestine hoped the draft would be able to receive full support from the Security Council once it convened. In fact, it received near-unanimous approval.
The resolution ‘stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.’
It insists on ‘the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.’
The proposal was also aimed at ‘creating and opening humanitarian corridors and other mechanisms for the sustained delivery of humanitarian aid.’
Resolution 1860, which has already been noted for its compromise on certain conditions, also ‘condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism.’
The resolution also urges UN member states to enforce a ‘durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the reopening of the crossing points.’
The draft was originally sought by Libya on behalf of Arab ambassadors to the UN and was considered highly likely to pass due to the apparent approval by the United States, United Kingdom and France.
At the actual session, however, the United States abstained from voting, giving Israel the green light to continue with its massacres. Both European and Arab diplomats expressed surprise at the seemingly last-minute decision by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had just hours earlier announced public support for the Egyptian draft.
Despite her abstention, Rice later said the United States supports the resolution. ‘The United States thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting,’ she said.
According to the text of the agreement, the draft resolution ‘welcomes the Egyptian initiative and other regional and international efforts that are underway.’
Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, proposed a three-part ceasefire agreement that first called for an immediate halt to fighting on both sides followed by reopening crossings into the coastal strip, as well as lifting the Israeli siege on Gaza.
Arab foreign ministers said on Thursday they had been hoping to secure at least the nine votes needed to clinch the agreement, so long as none of the five veto powers voted against. The five countries able to veto an agreement are the UK, China, France, Russia and the US.
For the better part of the past week, foreign ministers from the western nations and the Arab League have held both public and private debates on the initiative. Egypt’s Mubarak also invited Israeli and Palestinian leaders to join him in Cairo for talks on ending the hostilities.
Earlier, the French delegation asked for another 24 hours to work out their version of the draft, drawing a furious response from the Saudi delegation, who reportedly refused to wait any longer as civilians were ‘dying by the minute.’
Libya had also proposed its own version of a draft proposal, which it had urged the other 14 member states to accept, but the US blocked the draft for being too ‘anti-Israeli.’
Up to 800 Palestinians have now been killed, including some 200 children, since the Israeli assault on the Gaza Strip began on 27 December. More than 3,100 Palestinians were injured in the 13-day air, sea and land incursions, including about 250 injured seriously.
Ten Israeli soldiers and three civilians were reportedly killed during the same 13-day period with hundreds of Israeli soldiers being wounded.
Meanwhile, the Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak decided to impose a total closure on the West Bank beginning on Thursday.
The closure is in effect until midnight on 10 January, according to an announcement by the Israeli army.
The decision means that Palestinians from the West Bank will not be able to travel to their workplaces or visit friends and family in Jerusalem or inside Israel.
The army also imposed restrictions on Palestinians hoping to attend the Friday prayer at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. For men, only those over 50 and holders of Israeli-issued ID cards will be allowed to enter. No restrictions were applied to women.
l On Thursday Israeli troops shot and killed a United Nations truck driver in Gaza.
Witnesses said the UNRWA driver was shot near the Kerem Shalom border crossing at the northern end of the Strip. A bystander was injured in the shooting. The attack occurred two days after Israeli artillery killed 45 civilians at a UN compound in northern Gaza.
According to Palestinian medical officials, more bodies were recovered from previous attacks on Thursday, bringing the Palestinian death toll at that point to 765 over 13 days of the Israeli offensive. Some 3,120 have been injured.