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205 die as Israeli jets pound Gaza

All Indians safe

Jerusalem: Indians in Gaza are safe and are taking precautions amid a massive Israeli military operation today. “Despite signal disruptions I kept on trying and have managed to talk to all Indians living in Gaza. They are all safe and confined to their houses”, an Indian woman, Alka Toman, married to a Palestinian and living in the coastal strip for more than 10 years, said. — PTI

Gaza, December 27
Israel’s air force fired about 30 missiles at targets in the Gaza Strip today, destroying several Hamas police compounds, killing at least 205 persons and injuring over 700, medical officials and witnesses said.

The Israeli military confirmed it had conducted strikes, saying they targeted “terrorist infrastructure” and pledging to continue and expand attacks if necessary. Hamas vowed to avenge what it called “the Israeli slaughter”.

Thick black smoke billowed over Gaza city, where the port and security installations of the Islamist Hamas group were badly damaged.

Television footage showed dead bodies scattered on the ground and wounded and dead being carried away by distraught rescuers. There was widespread damage to buildings.

Hamas police spokesman Islam Shahwan said a police compound in Gaza City had been hosting a graduation ceremony for new personnel when it was attacked. Police chief Tawfiq Jabber was among the dead, the radio said.

Rescuers carried those showing signs of life to cars and ambulances, while others tried to revive the unconscious, television pictures showed.

Several of the rescuers beat their heads and shouted: “Allahu Akbar (God is greatest).” At another site, there was a huge crater in the ground. Nearby medics carried people into an ambulance.

Witnesses said the attacks were carried out by warplanes and combat helicopters.

“All fighters are ordered to respond to the Israeli slaughter,” said a statement by the Islamic Jihad group, echoing statements issued by Hamas and other armed factions.

An aide to defence minister Ehud Barak said the military was prepared to step up the assault if necessary. “The operation will be pursued and widened as required and subject to (commanders’) assessments,” the aide told Reuters.

“We are facing a period that will not be simple or easy.” A six-month truce expired in Gaza just over a week ago. Since then, at least six militants have been killed by Israeli air strikes and dozens of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza have slammed into Israel, damaging homes and causing panic.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had warned Islamist group Hamas on Thursday to stop firing rockets or pay a heavy price. “I will not hesitate to use Israel’s might to strike Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad,” he told Al Arabiya television, an Arab broadcaster widely watched in Gaza.

Around 12 rockets and mortar bombs were fired from Gaza yesterday. One accidentally struck a northern Gaza house killing two Palestinian sisters, aged five and 13, and wounding a third, Palestinian medics said. — Reuters



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