Monday, 12 January 2009

Israel threatens Gaza with "iron fist" as Hamas rejects truce

Tuesday, January 13th 2009

BY MATTHEW KALMAN in Jerusalem and HELEN KENNEDY in New York

Israel massed more troops Monday and threatened to pound Gaza with an "iron fist" if its security demands are not met, but Hamas rejected any truce and declared, "Gaza will not break."

Palestinian civilians caught in the middle continued to suffer and die. The latest death toll was 911 Palestinians and 13 Israelis.

"We want to end this," Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said. "If [Hamas stops firing rockets and closes its smuggling tunnels] we will end our military operation. Anything else will be met with the iron fist of the Israeli people."

As fresh Israeli reservists began pouring into Gaza, along with reports of tough urban warfare in Gaza City, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed to continue fighting.

"Gaza will not break - our victory over the Zionists is near," he said in a videotaped statement.

Israel charged that the Hamas leadership had holed up in a bomb-proof basement under the central Shifa Hospital - a facility, ironically, fortified by Israel when it was refurbished during the occupation of the 1980s.

"Shifa Hospital has long ago ceased to be just a hospital," Israeli Public Security Minister Avi Dichter said on Army radio.

"It is somewhat of an open secret that Hamas commanders walk around the hospital, in some instances wearing doctor's robes," Dichter said.

The charge, which has not been substantiated by the foreign reporters crowding the hospital, raised fears that the most crucial facility in Gaza City might become a target.

Hamas fired at least 14 rockets into Israel, including 10 during the three-hour daily ceasefire Israel called to allow aid to be distributed. There were no injuries.

Ezzadin Abu El-Aish, a Palestinian doctor who used to work in Israel, cowered in his house on the outskirts of Gaza City listening to heavy street fighting.

"After all the shooting we heard last night, I thought I wouldn't be getting up this morning," he said.

No comments: