Page last updated at 11:02 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

Israel braced for Hamas response


Firemen tackle a blaze caused by an Israeli rocket

Israel is tightening security ahead of demonstrations called by Palestinian militant group Hamas in protest at Israel's bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

Hamas leaders have urged Palestinians to observe a "day of wrath", after seven days of violence in Gaza.

Early on Friday, Israel bombed more targets in Gaza, including a mosque, a day after a senior Hamas leader and his family were killed in an air strike.

Palestinian militants have also fired more rockets into Israel, Israel says.

More than 400 people have died in the Israeli bombardment since it began last Saturday. The UN says at least 100 of them were civilians.

Four Israelis have been killed by rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, which have hit towns up to 25 miles (40km) from the narrow coastal strip.

Both sides have ignored international calls for a ceasefire.

Israel says its air campaign, launched in a bid to prevent militant rocket attacks from Hamas-controlled Gaza, has been going according to plan.

Since the start of Israel's operations in Gaza, Israeli sources say Palestinian militants have fired the following:
27 December 2008: 61 rockets, 33 mortar shells
28 December: 14 rockets, 16 mortar shells
29 December: 57 rockets, 15 mortar shells
30 December: 42 rockets, 6 mortar shells
31 December: 43 rockets, 25 mortar shells
Source: Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, Israel

However, BBC Middle East Editor Jeremy Bowen says a week of bombardment has not been able stop the rocket fire, and Israel now has to decide whether to send in ground troops.

Air raids have so far struck sites linked to Hamas, including smuggling tunnels under the border to Egypt, government buildings, security compounds, and homes of members of the organisation.

Israel said it attacked some 20 targets in Gaza overnight and in the early hours of Friday. It described the mosque it bombed in Jabaliya as a "terror hub" and said it was used to store weapons.

BBC staff in Gaza say at least 10 houses belonging to Hamas members were also hit, as well as a poultry farm and industrial workshop. Medical sources say two people were killed in Jabaliya.

Restricted movement

In response to Hamas' call for protests, Israeli police have been stationed throughout East Jerusalem.

Movement for Palestinians in the West Bank has been severely restricted.

Protests have been held across the world. More than 2,000 Australian Muslims gathered in a Sydney park for Friday prayers using a symbolic coffin. Up to 5,000 gathered in the Indonesian capital Jakarta.

Israel says it has completed preparations for a possible ground offensive, and large numbers of troops and tanks are massed on the Gaza border.


Many Palestinian families have moved away from the border area, and on Friday the Israeli army began allowing foreigners living in Gaza to leave.

Israel is refusing entry to Gaza for international journalists and has declared the area around it a "closed military zone".

The main UN agency operating in Gaza, Unwra, resumed food deliveries to Gaza on Thursday, but warned of a dire humanitarian situation in the territory.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said on Thursday there was no need for a ceasefire on humanitarian grounds as more lorries containing aid were entering Gaza.

Speaking in Paris after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, she said Hamas had used the previous six-month truce, which ended in mid-December, to re-arm.

Hamas has said Israel must stop bombarding Gaza and lift its blockade of the territory before it will consider a ceasefire.

A draft UN resolution put forward by Egypt and Libya failed after the US and UK complained that it made no mention of Hamas rocket attacks against Israel.

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