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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Gaza. 282 morts et plus de 700 blessés

by Hassane Zerrouky

282 Dead and More Than 700 Wounded

Translated Saturday 3 January 2009, by Henry Crapo

Israel masses tanks and mobilizes its reservists for a ground offensive. The aerial operations begun on Saturday night have lasted all weekend.

Hamas didn’t expect Israel to launch an operation named "Cast Lead" with such violence unprecedented since this bit of territory was attacked in 1967. Several hundred bombs and missiles were aimed, on Saturday at 11:30am local time (10:30am in Paris), and were then resumed in the evening and continued throughout the day on Sunday, at 230 targets, presumably related to Hamas. These aerial attacks, involving more that 60 fighter aircraft and helicopters, caused 282 deaths and 700 wounded, more that half being civilians. Several Islamist party buildings were to have been destroyed, but the targets were also simple houses, businesses, mosques, and schools.

The Israeli army, which doesn’t go into details, and is assured of a total impunity, affirmed, in the words of its spokesperson Avital Leibovitz, that they wanted to target "exclusively Hamas members and infrastructure", but added "all those who engage in action from within civilian areas, including mosques, will be targets." She indicated that Israel had attacked more than 40 tunnels in the south of Gaza, "situated on the Palestinian side of the border." In another speech, Defense minister Ehud Barak said on Sunday that the army "would enlarge and deepen its operations to the extent necessary." In fact, Israeli tanks and troops are massed on the border, leading one to expect a land offensive. Furthermore, the Israeli government has approved the mobilization of 6,500 reservists, involving "combat and civil defense units".

For the moment, with the exception of the threat by Abou Obeida, a Hamas leader, promising that the combatants "will give the enemy a lesson they won’t forget", or the appeal from Damascus by Khaled Nechaal, the chief of Hamas, the Islamist party displays an astonishing silence. Since Saturday, its combatants have indeed reacted by firing rockets that caused one death in Netivot, but it still appears to be a battle between David and Goliath, the forces involved being so disproportionate, Some rockets have managed to touch the town of Ashdod, some 30 kilometers north of Gaza, without personal injuries. And yesterday, there were scarcely a dozen rockets fired.

On the diplomatic front, we note that the president of the Palestinian Authority has launched an appeal to the international community and in particular to the Arab states "to bring this cowardly aggression and massacres in Gaza to an end." And then nothing more.

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