Israeli warplanes continued to pound targets including a mosque in Gaza yesterday as Hamas ordered a ‘day of wrath’ against Israel over the killing of a senior commander, Dr Nizar al-Rayyan and his family.
Thousands of Israeli security personnel were on alert after Hamas called for ‘massive marches’ following Friday prayers, starting off from the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem and from all mosques in the West Bank.
On Thursday, the sixth day of the Gaza onslaught, the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli occupation airforce reached 420 and the number of wounded reached 2,100, 300 of them in serious condition.
Israeli occupation air strikes on Thursday targeted areas close to the border from Beit Hanoun to the north, to Hay al-Tuffah and Jabalya to the north east of the Strip, paving the way for a possible ground assault.
The worst carnage was the targeting of the house of Dr Nizar al-Rayyan, a prominent Hamas leader, in which he and 15 members of his family were killed.
Dr Rayyan’s house as well as many houses in the vicinity were destroyed.
The houses of two other Hamas activists were also targeted by the Israeli occupation airforce, as well as the training grounds of the Qassam Brigades, no casualties were reported.
Three Israeli missiles struck his home, killing his wife and 13 other family members, including several children.
Palestinian medics said on Thursday night that many bodies were still under the rubble of his house, but they had managed to identify Rayan’s son, six-year-old Abed Ar-Rahman.
The air strike destroyed a four-story building in a densely populated neighbourhood, leading to a massive number of killed and injured.
Israeli TV said that the Hamas-affiliated ‘bank of targets’ includes Hamas leaders and their homes.
Local witnesses said that Rayan had not evacuated his house despite a warning from the Israeli military.
The head of Emergency and Ambulance Services within the Gaza Ministry of Health, Mu’wieyah Hasaneen, affirmed that 14 bodies of the killed were members of Rayan’s family.
Hamas said that Dr Rayyan was a lecturer at the Islamic university and enjoyed widespread respect at the Jabalya refugee camp, especially since he was always at the forefront of demonstrations against the occupation, not only that, but he never hesitated to don his military suit and join the Qassam Brigades in defending the camp during IOF incursions.
It was Dr Rayyan, who took the initiative, two years ago, to protect homes against Israeli occupation air strikes by forming human shields which succeeded in stopping this practice by the Israeli occupation, where they used to phone the occupier of the home and warn him to evacuate it in ten minutes because the home is going to be bombed.
During the ongoing onslaught against the Gaza Strip, Dr Rayyan refused to leave his home and go into hiding.
Dr Rayyan was a refugee from the village of Na’leyya near Askalan (Ashkelon).
He was a lecturer of Hadith at the Islamic University in Gaza. He graduated in 1982 from Imam Muhammad Ben Saud. He got his Masters degree from the Jordanian university in Amman in 1990 and his PhD from the University of Quran in Sudan in 1994.
He spent various periods in Israeli occupation jails and PA jails for his anti-occupation activities.
Later on Thursday, jets fired on targets in the Sheikh Radwan neighbourhood of Gaza City and a metal workshop nearby.
Purported sites for armed groups’ projectile launches were hit, as well, west of Gaza City.
One of the strikes there killed six and injured numerous others, witnesses said.
Meanwhile, renewed targeting of the southern Rafah border with Egypt left several wounded.
Israel also launched several raids throughout New Year’s Day on the headquarters of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City and the Ministries of Justice, Education and Civil Defence within the Palestinian government.
Also targeted on Thursday were sites in northern Gaza, where an air raid levelled the School of Applied Sciences, a Palestinian community college.
No injuries were reported in that particular attack on an educational institution, which an Israeli spokesperson maintained was ‘a Hamas school.’
Separate missiles targeted a police car, a printing centre in Gaza City and an armed group near the Khaled bin Walid School at Nusseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza.
A house belonging to Abu Ahmad Tawfiq was among two destroyed in the refugee camp, causing a number of injuries.
A separate attack on a group of fighters east of Gaza City was survived by all parties, who escaped without injury.
The same group later managed to launch an assortment of rockets and projectiles at the Israeli city of Kfar Azza.
Other factions continued pounding southern Israel with rockets, where projectiles hit Ashkelon, Beersheva and Sderot.
No Israeli injuries were immediately reported on Thursday other than ‘shock.’
On a separate note, Israel announced that it would permit some 400 foreigners living in Gaza to exit the war zone on Friday.
As for the other 1.5 million Palestinians living in the besieged coastal strip, no evidence indicated that the onslaught will end anytime soon as residents are preparing for a ground invasion over the weekend, which many say is imminent.
Dr Basem Naim, the Health Minister said that the death toll is expected to rise because there are more than 300 serious cases, adding that it is expected that many people are still buried under the rubble.
He said there are severe shortages of medicines and materials essential for treating the wounded.
He added that hospital stores ran out completely of 105 types of medicines, 225 types of medical consumables and 93 types of laboratory materials.
He also said that 50 per cent of ambulances are not working because of the lack of spare parts and stressed the dire need for electricity generators, all because of the oppressive siege that preceded the start of the holocaust.
He appealed to Egypt to allow medical teams waiting to enter the Gaza Strip to pass through the Rafah border crossing.
The Hamas Movement in the West Bank affirmed on Thursday that the battle in Gaza was the battle of Palestine and the battle of the Arab and Muslim Ummah and the free people of the world against the occupation.
In a statement, the Movement called on the Palestinian people in the West Bank to hold massive demonstrations in solidarity with ‘our brothers in Gaza’.
‘Let all the days in the West Bank be devoted to the steadfast Gaza, let it be days for the souls of the pure martyrs in Gaza, and days for solidarity with our people in the steadfast Strip’, the statement added.
The Movement also urged the ‘mujahideen’ and the rest of the Palestinian people to confront the Israeli occupation army and the Israeli settlers in every Palestinian city, village, and refugee camp.
In this concern, the Movement called on the PA security forces to desist from aborting Palestinian enthusiasm and activities against the occupation, underlining that the demonstrations weren’t directed against them.