12/31/2008, 00.00
ISRAEL – PALESTINE
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Israel rejects (for now) truce proposal in Gaza as “unrealistic”

by Joshua Lapide
Rockets land in Beer Sheva as the number of dead rises in the Strip. Medical facilities in Gaza lack operating rooms, bandages and drugs to treat the wounded. Israel wants an end to rocket attacks; Hamas wants an end to air raids.
Jerusalem (AsiaNews) – Israel ruled out as “unrealistic” a 48-hour truce proposed by France as rockets from the Strip continue to land on its territory and the death toll continues to rise in Gaza.

This morning more rockets launched from Gaza hit a school in Beer Sheva. The building was empty because the authorities had cancelled classes and closed all educational facilities in the city for security reasons. Rockets had previously landed in open fields just outside the city.

The barrage of rockets against towns in southern Israel pushed Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defence Minister Ehud Barak to reject last night a French proposal for a 48-hour lull in the fighting for “humanitarian” reasons.

“That proposal contained no guarantees of any kind that Hamas will stop the rockets and smuggling,” Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said. “It is not realistic to expect Israel to cease fire unilaterally with no mechanism to enforce the cessation of shooting and terror from Hamas.”

But Palmor said Israel had not rejected the proposal outright and that the Israeli cabinet was going to meet today to evaluate the idea. Tzipi Livni is also expected in Paris tomorrow to discuss the French proposal.

Words of defiance are instead coming from Hamas. “We will hit with our rockets further than the cities we have hit so far,” a spokesman for the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades said.

In the meantime the death toll is getting higher on the fifth day of Israel’s air and naval raids against the Gaza Strip, as conditions for the residents are worsening.

Palestinian medical officials have said that the number of dead now stands at 384, including 33 children, with more than 800 wounded. According to the United Nations, at least 62 dead are civilian. On the Israeli side four people have been killed.

The International Red Cross also warned that Gaza’s medical facilities are on the verge of collapse; there are no operating rooms, drugs, bandages or surgical instruments to treat the wounded.

The Gaza Strip has been almost totally sealed off since 2007—the population lacks food and fuel, including diesel which is used to run the only electric power station.

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