01/02/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE

Palestinians, "day of anger" as Israeli attack enters seventh day

by Joshua Lapide
Hamas leader Nizar Rayan has been killed, together with his four wives and 10 of his children. The army is on alert in Jerusalem for possible violence by Palestinians at the Temple Mount. Foreigners are being told to leave Gaza, as troops and tanks are amassed at the border.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A "day of anger" has been called by the Palestinians for today, Friday, the Muslim holy day, against Israel, which has begun its seventh day of air and naval attacks against Gaza. Yesterday, Hamas leader Nizar Rayan was killed.

Israeli forces are in a state of alert to address any disorder after Friday prayers. Supervision of the border with the West Bank has been stepped up, as well as in the old city of Jerusalem, and especially at the Temple Mount. There, Israeli police are limiting access only to Palestinians over the age of 50 who live in Jerusalem. The young and Palestinians from other areas are excluded.

The call from Hamas for a "day of anger" follows the news of the death, yesterday, of one of the most radical leaders of the Islamic movement. Nizar Rayan, 51, was killed together with his four wives and 10 of his 12 children. He had promised to use suicide attacks against Israel, and said that rockets from Gaza would strike "even deeper."

Since yesterday, Arab television stations including that of Hamas have continued to show footage of the charred bodies of the children recovered from the rubble.

Today, four rockets were launched from Gaza against Ashkalon, while Israeli airplanes and ships continue their bombings. Troops and tanks from Israel are amassed in front of the Eretz crossing, in preparation for a possible invasion of the Strip. Israel has sent messages to the foreigners present in Gaza, advising them to leave the area.

According to Mouawiya Hassanein, head of emergency services in Gaza, at least 422 Palestinians have been killed since December 27, and 2,200 wounded. The UN says that 25% of the victims are civilians.

Both Israel and Hamas have ignored all international requests for a ceasefire. Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni has said that no ceasefire is needed because there is no "humanitarian crisis." Speaking in Paris after a meeting with President Sarkozy, Livni said that Hamas used the six-month ceasefire, which ended last December 19, to reinforce itself and rearm with more powerful missiles, brought in illegally from Egypt.

According to Israeli sources, in recent days 360 missiles and mortar rounds have been launched, killing four and wounding about a dozen. The operation against Gaza has many supporters among the Jewish population. According to the newspaper Maariv, 95% of Israelis are in favor.

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