01/03/2009, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Israel kills another Hamas leader. Gaza offensive continues

by Joshua Lapide
Abu Zakaria al-Jamal has been killed. Khaled Mashaal is threatening Tel Aviv, and urging the Muslim world to unite. Demonstrations in many Islamic countries. Humanitarian crisis worsens.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews/Agencies) - A Hamas militant leader, Abu Zakaria al-Jamal, died this morning from injuries that he suffered in a bombing overnight. Again at dawn today, Israeli airplanes continued to strike some areas of Gaza.

The Hamas leader in exile in Syria, Khaled Meshaal, has threatened Israel with "divine wrath" if it dares to launch a ground offensive in the Strip.

Israel has threatened such an offensive, and has gathered thousands of reserve troops and tanks at the Gaza border. Yesterday, prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barack, and foreign minister Tzipi Livni discussed the next steps of the offensive, which has already lasted more than a week. This morning, Hamas said that it has repelled an Israeli attempt to enter Gaza, but the Israeli military has denied that any of its soldiers have tried to cross the border since the beginning of the offensive.

Meshaal's statements have been broadcast on the television network Al Jazeera, in an attempt to increase the support for Hamas among Islamic populations. Yesterday, declared "a day of anger" by Hamas, after the killing of their leader Nizar Rayan, there were demonstrations and incidents in various parts of the world.

Demonstrations in the Muslim world

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in Ramallah and Jerusalem after the Friday prayers.

In Syria, 2,000 people demonstrated in a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus, exalting "jihad" and burning Israeli flags.

In Tehran (Iran), at least 6,000 people marched from the university to Palestine Square, shouting slogans against Israel and the United States and burning Israeli flags.

In Egypt, hundreds of policemen surrounded the Al-Azhar mosque, where a gathering had been organized, and clashed with some of the demonstrators. In Jordan, the police used tear gas and clubs to stop some groups that wanted to enter the Israeli embassy. About 30,000 Jordanians gathered in a stadium chanting their support for Gaza and calling for an end to the peace treaty with Israel.

In Indonesia,10,000 people marched through the streets of Jakarta, carrying cardboard "missiles" in front of the U.S. embassy. There were also hundreds of demonstrators in Manila, with posters accusing Israel of being a "butcher of children."

In Kabul (Afghanistan), 3,000 people gathered in front of a mosque, hurling stones against an image of George W. Bush.

In Turkey, outside of a mosque in Istanbul, at least 5,000 people denounced the Israeli air raids, burning Israeli and American flags and praying for the victims.

Humanitarian crisis in Gaza

While Israel continues its attacks, Hamas has also launched rockets against Israeli towns. Yesterday, five Palestinian civilians, including three children, were killed during an air raid.

The UN says that at least 421 Palestinians have been killed since the beginning of the Israeli offensive, and there are more than 2,000 injured. Four are dead on the Israeli side.

Israel is denying foreign journalists permission to enter Gaza, although the supreme court has said that at least a limited number should be allowed inside. The UN says that, although emergency supplies have been distributed, the humanitarian crisis in Gaza is becoming increasingly severe: 80% of the population of the Strip (with 1.4 million inhabitants) has no means of support.

A statement from the Israeli foreign ministry says, instead, that there is sufficient food and medicine, although Israel is working with humanitarian organizations in Gaza to identify "humanitarian needs."

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