12/27/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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At least 70 dead, initial tally of Israeli retaliation against Hamas

Aircraft bearing the Star of David this morning began attacking fundamentalist targets. President Peres denies that his country wants to reoccupy Gaza. Egypt is trying to stop the violence.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - At least 70 have died, according to Palestinian sources, in the expected Israeli attack against the Gaza Strip. Announced days ago, the Israeli retaliation came after Hamas said it did not want to renew the informal ceasefire in effect for six months, and after the resumption of the launching of dozens of Qassam rockets against Israeli cities and villages on the border.

Today, Israeli aircraft launched at least 30 missiles: Israeli sources maintain that Hamas police stations were the main target. The port of Gaza is also believed to have been seriously damaged. Clouds of black smoke are rising up from the city. One witness recounts that the general security headquarters of the fundamentalists has been hit, and that about 50 people have been killed. No comment from the IDF, the Israeli army.

On the political level, the Jewish state has begun repeating that the aim of the incursions is to stop the launching of rockets against Israeli territory. In an interview published today by the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Israeli president Shimon Peres affirms that his country will take "all of the necessary steps" to stop the rockets, but has "no intention of igniting a regional war," and denies that the military operations underway have the aim of reoccupying or re-entering Gaza.

On the international level, Egyptian officials have told Israeli radio that Cairo is striving to prevent a further escalation of violence. A representative of the head of the Egyptian intelligence service, Omar Suleiman - who mediated the six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel - has expressed the concerns of Cairo to one of the leading representatives of Hamas, Mahmoud Zahar.

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