Saturday, January 10th
By MATTHEW KALMAN in Jerusalem and CORKY SIEMASZKO in New York
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITERS
Israeli Defence Forces, courtesy of GettyButt out!
Israeli paratroopers operate against Hamas militants in the Gaza strip on Jan. 8, 2009. Israel is intensifying its wide-scale ground assault despite a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire.
That was the terse response from Israel's prime minister Friday to United Nations demands that he end the Gaza invasion.
"The State of Israel has never agreed that any outside body would determine its right to defend the security of its citizens," Ehud Olmert said in a statement.
The Israeli Defense Force "will continue operations in order to defend Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions with which it has been assigned in the operation," Olmert said.
He capped his statement by saying Hamas' renewed rocket attacks against Israel were proof that a UN Security Council resolution aimed at securing a ceasefire "is not practical and will not be honored in actual fact by the Palestinian murder organizations."
That tough talk was cheered in New York, where Assemblyman Dov Hikind urged the Israelis to keep on fighting.
"A ceasefire at this point would prove disastrous," the Brooklyn Democrat said. "All of Israel's efforts to eradicate Hamas strongholds and achieve security for its citizens would be for naught."
No casualties were reported from Hamas' latest aerial assaults, but its leaders vowed to keep launching rockets.
"We stress that the military wing, with the help of Allah, has not been damaged," declared Abu Obaida, the masked spokesman for the Hamas Qassam Brigades.
Still, the Palestinian death toll from the 14-day old invasion was 788 and climbing fast with more than 3,000 wounded.
Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, have also been killed since the invasion began Dec.27.
The Security Council resolution that Olmert rejected called for a "full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
It also expressed "grave concern" at the growing humanitarian crisis and heavy civilian casualties. And it called for the opening of safe corridors to allow badly needed aid into Gaza.
Secretary of State Rice supported the resolution but abstained from the 14-0 vote on Thursday "to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation."
The Egyptians have been trying to work out a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, a radical Palestinian organization bent on destroying the Jewish state.
Hamas' top honchos managed to slip across the border into Egypt Friday, most likely via the underground tunnels that the terrorists use to smuggle in weapons - a network Israeli bombers have been trying to smash.
Meanwhile, the Israelis continued to bomb Gaza, killing 23 more Palestinians and reducing a five-story building in northern Gaza to rubble.
Hamas said seven people, including a baby, were killed in that attack - a claim that could not be immediately corroborated.
Meanwhile, UN aid deliveries to Gaza were put on hold for a second straight day because of safety concerns.
Deliveries were halted after Israeli tank fire killed a UN driver, and a Red Cross worker was wounded by Israeli soldiers. More than half of the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza rely on the UN for food and water.
The Israelis insist they are doing everything they can to make sure Palestinian civilians don't starve. They have also accused Hamas of using their own people as human shields.