01/13/2009, 00.00
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Fighting on periphery of Gaza; Ban Ki-moon going to Middle East

by Joshua Lapide
Urban warfare begins. Dozens of homes destroyed. 930 dead among the Palestinians; 4,200 injured. Olmert and Haniye are threatening each other. Ban Ki-moon continues calling for a ceasefire. Tomorrow, he will be in Egypt and Jordan, then in Israel and the West Bank.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - Israeli troops have been fighting since this morning on the periphery of Gaza City, in the neighborhood of Tel Hawwa, less than 2 kilometers south of the city center. Meanwhile, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon is asking Israel and Hamas to stop, on the eve of a trip that will take him to the Middle East.

The Israeli ground attack in Tel Hawwa began overnight, backed up by naval artillery and by helicopters. Dozens of homes have been destroyed, while the inhabitants of the area are seeking refuge. Some of them have said that this has been "the longest night." Hamas militias say that they have destroyed two Israeli tanks, and have killed an undisclosed number of soldiers, but the Israeli army has denied the report.

According to Muawiya Hassanein, head of emergency services in Gaza, since the beginning of the Israeli offensive 930 Palestinians have been killed. These include 227 children, 97 women, 97 elderly; the injured are more than 4,200.

The combatants continue to insist that they will not stop. Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that the army will continue to strike Hamas "with an iron fist," until the launching of rockets against Israeli towns stops. Ismayil Haniye, head of Hamas, responded by promising "victory." "All the blood that is being shed will not go to waste," he said. But he also said that his group is seeking a diplomatic solution.

Today, Ban Ki-moon departs for the Middle East, trying to implement the resolution for a ceasefire approved last week in the security council. Speaking in New York, he said: "To both sides, I say: Just stop, now. Too many people have died. There has been too much civilian suffering. Too many people, Israelis and Palestinians, live in daily fear of their lives."

The secretary general of the UN arrives in Egypt and Jordan tomorrow; he will then visit Israel, the West Bank, Turkey, Syria, and Kuwait.

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