Saturday 27 December 2008
by Ibrahim Barzak, The Associated Press
The source of this article is: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_ISRAEL_PALESTINIANS?SITE=RIPAW&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT
Gaza City, Gaza Strip - Israeli warplanes retaliating for rocket fire from the Gaza Strip pounded dozens of security compounds across the Hamas-ruled territory in unprecedented waves of airstrikes Saturday, killing nearly 200 people and wounding 270 others in the single bloodiest day of fighting in years.
Most of those killed were security men, but civilians were also among the dead. Hamas said all of its security installations were hit and responded with several medium-range Grad rockets at Israel, reaching deeper than in the past. One Israeli was killed and at least four people were wounded in the rocket attacks. With so many wounded, the Palestinian death toll was likely to rise.
The air offensive followed weeks of intense Palestinian rocket and mortar fire on southern Israel, and Israeli leaders had issued increasingly tough warnings in recent days that they would not tolerate continued attacks.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel would expand the operation if necessary. "There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for fighting," he told a news conference. He would not comment when asked if a ground offensive was planned.
But asked earlier if Hamas political leaders might be targeted next, military spokeswoman Maj. Avital Leibovich said, "Any Hamas target is a target."
The strikes caused widespread panic and confusion in Gaza, as black clouds of smoke rose above the territory, ruled by Hamas for the past 18 months. Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as children were leaving school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children. Most of those killed were security men, but civilians were among the dead.