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Israel attacks Gaza, 205 Palestinians killed

world Updated: Dec 28, 2008 00:09 IST
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Israeli warplanes and helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing at least 205 people in one of the bloodiest days in the Palestinians’ conflict with Israel.

Militants in the Gaza Strip fired salvoes that killed one Israeli man and wounded several others. Both sides said they were ready to stage wider assaults.

Black smoke billowed over Gaza City, where the dead and wounded lay scattered on the ground after the Israeli air strikes destroyed more than 30 security compounds, including two where Hamas was hosting graduation ceremonies for new recruits.

Morgues across the Gaza Strip ran out of space for bodies. Aid groups said they feared the Israeli operation could fuel a humanitarian crisis in the impoverished coastal enclave, home to 1.5 million Palestinians, half of them dependent on food aid.

Israel said it had targeted “terrorist infrastructure” following days of rocket attacks from Gaza on southern Israel that caused some damage but few injuries. “There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight,” Defence Minister Ehud Barak said.

No fixed timeline: Israel

The massive Israeli bombardment of Gaza is “only just the beginning,” military spokesman Avi Benayahu told army radio on Saturday.

“This is only just the beginning of an operation launched after a security cabinet decision. It could take time. We have not fixed a timeline and we will act according to the situation on the ground,” he said.

Palestinian prez in ‘urgent contact’ with other states Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Saturday that he was in “urgent contact” with numerous countries over the deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

“We have carried out urgent contacts with numerous Arab countries and other nations to stop the cowardly aggressions and massacres in the Gaza Strip,” Abbas said from Saudi Arabia.

Egypt slams Israeli ‘murder’

Egypt condemned Israel’s air raids as “murder” and opened its Rafah border crossing with the territory to allow the wounded through for treatment. “We call for an immediate end to Israeli military operations. We cannot allow these attacks to continue. We cannot permit the murder of Palestinians,” Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said.

Syria on Saturday condemned the Israeli air raids on the Gaza Strip as a “barbaric crime” and called for an emergency summit of the Arab League, the foreign ministry said in a statement. Agencies