Fighting continues in Gaza; Ban Ki-moon arrives
Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Heavy fighting continued at dawn between the Israeli army and Hamas militants in the suburbs of Gaza City. Meanwhile, UN secretary General Ban Ki-moon has arrived in the Middle East in an attempt to put an end to the conflict now entering its 19th day.
Today Ban is due to meet with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, followed by the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority. He will not however, meet with Hamas, and it is still not known whether he will visit Gaza.
Overnight Israeli planes carried out 60 raids on targets in the Strip in an attempt to destroy the tunnels that connect Gaza to Egypt and are used to smuggle weapons and rockets.
Yesterday at least 70 Palestinians were killed, bringing the number of those dead to 975 with at least 4400 injured, Israel for its part claims that its dead are 13: 10 soldiers and 3 civilians. The Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of wanting to “wipe-out” the people of Gaza. “This aggression – he said speaking from Ramallah – is growing fiercer by the day”.
A UN watchdog has accused Israel of showing a "manifest disrespect" for the protection of children in Gaza. More than 40% of those killed in Gaza were women or children, said the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, even though Israel had signed a UN protocol condemning attacks on places where children were likely to be present.
John Ging, The chief UN aid official for Gaza appealed to the international community to protect Gaza's civilians, saying nowhere in the territory of 1.5 million people was safe any longer with the conflict becoming “a test of our humanity”.
Jakob Kellenberger, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) visited the densely-populated Palestinian enclave yesterday and said what he saw was shocking; “It is unacceptable to see so many wounded people. Their lives must be spared and the security of those who care for them guaranteed.”
Two days ago, on January 12th, Israel entered “phase 3” of its offensive, with ground troops entering the Strip, but the Defence Minister later decided to put a halt to the ground incursion that risked becoming a battle on the streets of the cities. Such a step could further complicate the search for a diplomatic solution and cause heavy Israeli losses. It could also risk the waning of support of the ruling Kadima party only weeks away from elections.