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Malaysiakini's report:

Israeli troops pushed deeper into Gaza and clashed in fierce battles with Hamas fighters on Sunday as Israel raised the stakes in its deadly offensive on the Islamists' overcrowded stronghold.


Explosions shook the northern Gaza Strip and thick black smoke billowed skywards as fighting raged in the largest Israeli military operation since the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Israeli tanks and infantry were operating in the former Jewish colony of Netzarim, just three kilometres south of Gaza City, the main population centre of the densely populated territory, witnesses said.

Heavy fighting was also reported north of Gaza City and outside the northern towns of Beit Lahiya, Beit Hanun and Jabaliya.

Five civilians had been killed since Israeli troops rolled into Gaza just after nightfall on Saturday, medics said.

israel invades gaza strip hamas palestineSome 30 Israeli soldiers and "several" Hamas fighters were reported to have been wounded so far, the army and medics said.

The Israeli army denied Hamas claims that soldiers had been killed and Palestinian ambulances were unable to reach the scene of the fighting.

The ground invasion followed a week of intense air and naval bombardment unleashed on the Gaza Strip on Dec 27 in a bid to stop persistent rocket fire from the enclave that the Islamists have run for a year and a half.

"Operation Cast Lead" had killed at least 463 Palestinians, including 80 children, and wounded more than 2,300 others before the ground troops rolled in, according to Gaza medics.

Rocket fire from Gaza over the same period killed four Israelis.

US blocks Security Council resolution

Israel's offensive had sparked spiralling anger in the Muslim world and protests across the globe.

In New York, the UN Security Council failed to agree on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, with United States blocking moves to criticise Israel.

After nearly four hours of closed-door consultations, members of the council emerged without reaching agreement.

israeli air strikes against hamas gaza strip palestineHamas slammed the indecision, with spokesman Fawzi Barhum saying in a statement that "what is happening in the Security Council is a farce that shows the level that America and the Zionist occupier dominates its decisions."

The meeting was the Security Council's third since the conflict erupted on Dec 27.

French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, who presides in the council this month, said "there was no formal agreement between member states" on a Gaza statement.

"But I have noted strong convergencies about our concern at the escalation of violence and the deterioration of the situation and strong convergencies on our call for an immediate, durable and respected ceasefire," Ripert told reporters after the meeting.

A draft statement submitted earlier for the council's consideration by Libya on behalf of the Arab League had expressed "serious concern" about the ground invasion and called on the parties "to observe an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect".

However, the document made no mention of the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory that Israel said prompted its retaliatory offensive against Gaza, and the British and US ambassadors said the draft seemed too partial.

France leads criticism of ground invasion

US deputy envoy Alejandro Wolff, talking to reporters after the consultations, said Washington believed it was important that the region "not return to the status quo" that had allowed Hamas to fire rockets into Israel.

"The efforts we are making internationally are designed to establish a sustainable, durable ceasefire that's respected by all," Wolff said. "And that means no more rocket attacks. It means no more smuggling of arms."

As Israel's closest ally, Washington has regularly vetoed Security Council resolutions it sees as too critical of the Jewish state.

israel invades gaza strip hamas palestineFrance led criticism of the ground invasion that Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas warned would have "grave consequences" for the region.

The United States, which had given its close ally Israel free rein to decide whether to launch a ground offensive, warned that any ceasefire must prevent a return to the "status quo" with Hamas.

"We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a reestablishment of the status quo ante, where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza and to condemn the people of Gaza to a life of misery," said State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

Israel to strike 'hard blow'

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said the army aimed to capture sites used to fire rockets from Gaza into Israel and vowed to strike a "hard blow" to the Islamist group pledged to the destruction of the Jewish state.

israel invades gaza strip hamas palestineWith the army warning of "many days" of combat, Defence Minister Ehud Barak said "it will not be easy or short but we are determined."

The army had "dealt an unprecedented heavy blow to Hamas," he declared.

"Our aim is to force Hamas to stop its hostile activities against Israel and Israelis from Gaza, and to bring about a significant change in the situation in southern part of Israel."

The Israeli cabinet was to meet later on Sunday to discuss the offensive.

Less than two months before a snap general election called for Feb 10, the Israeli leadership is enjoying widespread public support for its offensive on Hamas.

Hamas remains defiant

The Islamists remain defiant, vowing the Israeli army would pay a "high price" for entering Gaza.

"Your incursion into Gaza will not be a walk in the park and Gaza will become your cemetery," Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was due in Israel on Monday for talks on a ceasefire with Olmert in Jerusalem and Abbas in Ramallah.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner called the ground invasion a "dangerous military escalation" that would undermine attempts to broker a truce.

"France condemns the Israeli ground offensive against Gaza just as it condemns the continuing firing of rockets," Kouchner said in a statement.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke with Olmert, "pressing hard for an immediate ceasefire," a statement from Brown's office said -


Samuel Goh Kim Eng said...


The call for all sides to a complete ceasefire
Will be the sincere request of all pacifists' desire
With the reminder that not all problems can be solved by fire
And the harsh fact that real peace cannot be on hire

(C) Samuel Goh Kim Eng - 050109
Mon. 5th Jan. 2009.

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