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|Death toll in Gaza exceeds 850|
Article Date: January 12, 2009
The Palestinian death
toll in the Gaza Strip has risen to 854 and more than 3,650 injured as
the Israeli offensive entered its third week.
The air and ground attacks continued on Sunday with Israeli aircraft bombarding different targets in the strip and ground forces advancing further into the outskirts of Gaza City.
Medics in the embattled Strip said three Palestinians were killed and dozens wounded by heavy Israeli tank fire and air strikes early on Sunday, some allegedly by banned white phosphorus shells that Israel denied using.
members of one family were among the fatalities, killed by an Israeli
tank shell in Jabaliya.
Israel dropped leaflets on Gaza City warning residents that the military was about to "escalate" the offensive and to begin a "new phase in the war on terror".
Al Jazeera's Zeina Awad reporting from southern Israel said: "The leaflets are telling people not to associate themselves with Hamas. They're not an order to evacuate like previous ones. An Israeli army spokesperson told Al Jazeera that they were meant to tell Palestinians in Gaza that the offensive will intensify.
"When Israel says they will intensify their operations, they usually do and from the Israeli point of view, we can expect a radical move from the Israeli army, which would mean urban warfare and a higher casualty rate for both sides.
"Putting aside the large number of demonstrations that were held throughout Israel today, the majority of the Israeli public are very much behind their government's decision to intensify their offensive within the Gaza Strip."
Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza City, said there had been intense fighting during the day on Saturday.
"The most significant development was the advance of the Israeli military," he said.
"We understand now
they are on the outskirts of Gaza City, still trying to avoid going in
through major population centres, but navigating their way around those
urban areas on the periphery."
"The civilian population has no way to hide. The population density is so high you can not do attacks like this without knowing that you are attacking the civilians.
"Also, the injuries must come from extremely explosive devices. We suspect that Israel is using a new type of high explosive called Dime [dense inert metal explosive].
"We urge the
world, stop the bombing of Gaza. Please stop it."
Palestinian fighters fired at least 10 rockets into Israel on Saturday, slightly wounding two people.
Al Jazeera's Alan Fisher, reporting from the Gaza-Israel border, said that the number was down significantly over the past two days, from about 30-40 daily since Israel's assault began.
"It may well be that's because the Israeli army is taking over more of the land where these rockets are fired from," he said. "But it also may be that Hamas is running out of rockets to fire into Israel."
"From that point
of view, I'm sure the Israeli public believe that this has been a
successful operation because it is reducing the capacity of Hamas to
fire rockets into southern Israel."
A senior Hamas delegation was in the Egyptian capital to make their remarks on the Egyptian plan aimed at ending the fighting.
resolution passed by the UN security council late on Thursday failed to
bring peace to the Gaza Strip, with Israel arguing that it has the right
Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, also in Cairo, said the Egyptian plan would facilitate progress on a ceasefire.
The UN, meanwhile, has said that it will resume its work in the Gaza Strip after receiving safety assurances from Israeli authorities.
A UN statement said that Israel had given "credible assurances that the security of UN personnel installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected".
The UN stopped aid shipments after one of its lorries was shot at by Israeli forces, killing the driver, two days ago.
The majority of
the 1.5 million people living in the Gaza Strip depend on foreign aid
for survival and the humanitarian situation has worsened as the
offensive has continued.
Source: Al Jazeera & agencies