Monday 29 December 2014

Palestinians fear they are now 'trapped' as airstrikes resume

Kim Sengupta

Published 05/08/2014 | 02:30

Palestinians dig through the rubble of a building searching for bodies after what police said was an Israeli air strike at Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza City. Reuters
Palestinians dig through the rubble of a building searching for bodies after what police said was an Israeli air strike at Shati (beach) refugee camp in Gaza City. Reuters
Mourners carry the body of Palestinian boy Mohammed Eweda , whom medics said was killed in an Israeli air strike, during his funeral in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian man reacts as he carries the body of a girl from the Abu Nejim family, whom medics said was killed along with other eight family members by an Israeli air strike, before her burial at a cemetery in Beit Lahiya in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
Israeli soldiers walk past tanks at a staging area near the border with Gaza Strip. Reuters
An Israeli soldier launches a Skylark unmanned aerial vehicle near the border with Gaza Strip. Reuters
Israeli women take cover as a siren warning of incoming rockets sounds in the southern city of Ashkelon. Reuters
A general view of destroyed and damaged houses in Beit Hanoun town, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the northern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian man walks amidst the destruction in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during the Israeli offensive, in the east of Gaza City. Reuters
Palestinian mourners carry the bodies of members of the Najam family, killed overnight in an Israeli strike at the family house, during the funeral in Beit Lahiya, Gaza Strip. AP
Palestinians gather as rescue workers search for victims under the rubble of a house which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
An armoured military ambulance damaged in a Palestinian mortar strike is seen near the border with the Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian man reacts after the body of his mother was removed from under the rubble of their house which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip. Reuters
A Palestinian stands amid the rubble of his bedroom in a building destroyed by Israeli strikes in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. AP
Palestinians walk in front of destroyed buildings hit by an Israeli strike in Beit Lahiya, in the northern Gaza Strip. AP
Israelis stand near a flipped bus at the scene of an attack in Jerusalem An Israeli-declared cease-fire and troop withdrawals slowed violence in the Gaza war Monday, though an attack on Israeli bus that killed one person in Jerusalem underscored the tensions still simmering in the region. AP
An Israeli border police officer stands near a flipped bus at the scene of an attack in Jerusalem. An Israeli-declared cease-fire and troop withdrawals slowed violence in the Gaza war Monday, though an attack on Israeli bus that killed one person in Jerusalem underscored the tensions still simmering in the region. AP
Residents stand on balconies as they look at the scene of a suspected attack in Jerusalem. A Palestinian killed an Israeli and overturned a bus with a construction vehicle on Monday and a gunman wounded a soldier in attacks in Jerusalem that appeared to be a backlash against Israel's Gaza war. Reuters
An Israeli soldier walks next to army excavators at a staging area near the border with the Gaza Strip. Reuters
A man walks past Israeli police officers standing near the home of a Palestinian who killed an Israeli and overturned a bus with a construction vehicle on Monday, in the Arab East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Jabal Mukaber. Reuters
An Israeli soldier from the Givati brigade carries his gear after returning to Israel from Gaza. Egypt presented Palestinian demands to Israel on Monday as part of efforts to mediate a ceasefire in Gaza which could pave the way for negotiations to end more than three weeks of fighting, an Egyptian source said. Reuters

The airstrike came after Israel had declared another ceasefire - a missile hitting a home in the teeming centre of Gaza City, killing five people, including two children.

Amid the carnage, the fear on the ground is that bombs will continue to rain down on a population with nowhere to escape, even if Israel withdraws its ground forces.

As the assault on Gaza continued, the British Government said it was looking into reports that a UK national had been killed in Rafah on Sunday.

The man, said to be from Rochdale, is believed to have been working for an aid agency in the southern town, which had come under fierce assault from Israeli forces for the last four days, leaving more than 140 people dead.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, speaking yesterday during a visit to Loos Cemetery in France to commemorate World War I, said: "We are 
doing everything we can to get to the bottom of this. I don't want to say anything before 
we have been able to do that, but this only reinforces the need for an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire. This slaughter, this killing, has got to end."

Truce

The Israeli military stressed that the seven-hour humanitarian truce did not include Rafah, where air, artillery and tank strikes began on Friday after Israel accused Hamas of kidnapping a soldier and killing two others with the use of a suicide bomber.

It was subsequently confirmed that Lt Hadar Goldin was killed in action. But there was no respite for Rafah, where a UN school was hit by a missile that killed 10, an attack the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon had called a moral outrage and a criminal act.

Operations continued yesterday with the Israeli forces saying that as well as hunting "terrorists" they were destroying a complex network of tunnels which had been used to launch rocket attacks.

The survivors in one Palestinian family, the al-Bakaris, said they had no political connections and demanded to know why they had to suffer as neighbours and emergency services dug into the rubble in the hope of finding six people still missing. One of the bodies recovered was that of Ramadan, one of two brothers who owned the house.

His sister, Maha, was at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, watching over Ramadan's three-year-old son, Ali, when she heard about her brother's death.

"My family, our people, are being slaughtered like animals," she said. "This continues day after day, all the big leaders around the world say this must stop and then they do nothing. How many of the resistance have the Israelis killed? Look in the morgue and you will see the dead are children, women, old people. What has this little boy done to be hit by a bomb?"

Lying in his hospital bed, Ali stared ahead with frightened eyes. He had not spoken since being dug out of the rubble three hours earlier.

Um Jihad al-Burai, whose house next door was damaged in the blast, said: "This will go on for months. So what if they withdraw their troops, they will just keep using their planes and bombs against us.

"They will kill us when they want to. We can't go anywhere, they have kept us chained with the blockade, we cannot escape anywhere, we are trapped."

The Palestinian toll on day 28 day of the war was over 1,831 killed and 9,000 injured, most of them civilians.

All but three of the 64 Israelis killed have been from the military. An estimated 3,000 Palestinian homes have been destroyed or damaged.

Representatives of Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad held their first formal meeting in Cairo with Egyptian mediators, in a process that is supposed to lead to a long-term ceasefire.

Tony Blair, the Middle East envoy, and the US special envoy Frank Lowenstein were also present. The Israelis, however, refused to turn up for the talks after, they said, Hamas broke a 72-hour ceasefire on Friday by acts including the attack that killed Lt Goldin.

Sami Abu Zuhri, the Hamas spokesman in Gaza, accused Israel of cynically manipulating what happened with Lt Goldin.

"They tricked and deceived the world, they said the soldier had been abducted and now they say he was killed in battle. They manufactured this to break the ceasefire while blaming us and then they committed a massacre in Rafah."

Mark Regev, a spokesman for Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, said yesterday's truce was "to assist with the humanitarian relief" of the people of Gaza.

Irish Independent

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