vrijdag 16 januari 2009

Hamas minister gedood in IDF luchtaanval Gaza

Nu een staakt het vuren dichter bij komt, slaat Israel nog even extra hard toe lijkt het, om als overwinnaar uit de strijd te komen.

Palestinians: Hamas interior minister killed in IDF Gaza air strike
By Amos Harel, Haaretz Correspondent, and Agencies
Last update - 18:32 15/01/2009

Palestinian sources said Thursday that an Israel Air Force strike in Gaza City has killed two of Hamas' most senior officials, including Hamas Interior Minister Said Siam.

Two other members of the Palestinian Islamist group's leadership were also killed, including Siam's brother.

Six other Hamas operatives were wounded in the air strike in the heart of the city, the sources said. The IDF Southern Command ordered the airstrike on the basis of precise intelligence provided by the Shin Bet security service.

The airstrike on Siam is apparently an attempt by Israel to deliver an image of victory in the offensive against Hamas. The Israel Defense Forces understands that Hamas' agreement in principle to the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza signals that the campaign is nearing its end.

Earlier Thursday, Israel Defense Forces troops, backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns, thrust further into Gaza City than ever before, seeking out Hamas gunmen, and carrying out the army's most relentless shelling of the Gaza Strip in nearly three weeks of fighting.

Channel 10 television reported Thursday evening that troops were operating in the heart of the city, and had taken control of three of its neighborhoods. The television posed the question whether this could in fact be the delayed third stage of the IDF operation in Gaza.

Live video footage from a Reuters camera in central Gaza showed sustained artillery fire from the edge of the city for several hours during the day. Shells exploded in downtown areas and long machine-gun bursts echoed off Gaza's cramped housing blocks.

Much of the fighting was centered in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, where some residents fled on foot while others remained in the precarious shelter of their homes as a night-time attack stretched into the morning.

Tanks and bulldozers rolled into a neighborhood park, apparently seizing it as a kind of command center, witnesses said. Masked gunmen ran toward the areas under fire carrying bags containing unidentified objects.

Residents were seen fleeing their homes in pajamas, some wheeling elderly parents in wheelchairs. Others were stopping journalists' armored cars or ambulances pleading for someone to take them to safety.

Israeli forces have encircled the city of 500,000 people for days. Tanks have made forays towards the center to test the resistance of Hamas and other militant groups but have balked at launching all-out urban warfare in Gaza City, where Hamas militants are more familiar with the lay of the land and Israeli casualties would be liable to spiral.

IAF planes struck some 70 targets overnight, including weapons positions, rocket squads and a mosque in southern Gaza that it said served as an arsenal, the military said.

Seven Palestinians were killed overnight, medical officials said.

In an effort to keep the death toll from ballooning further, Egypt was pressing both sides to accept a 10-day truce instead of a comprehensive accord to end the conflict.

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