Page last updated at 16:39 GMT, Friday, 2 January 2009

West Bank anger over Gaza raids

Funeral for Hamas leader Nizar Rayan on 2 January
Hamas made a show of strength at funerals on Friday

Thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank have joined demonstrations after a call from Hamas for a "day of wrath" against the Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Five Palestinians, including three children, have been killed in the latest Israeli air attacks on Gaza.

More than 400 people are believed to have died in a week of raids on Gaza. Four Israelis have died in the rocket attacks Israel is trying to prevent.

The US said on Friday it wanted a "durable and sustainable" ceasefire.

But US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said any ceasefire should "not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante, where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza".

The BBC's Kim Ghattas in Washington says it is unclear what Ms Rice means by "sustainable ceasefire" or how it can be attained.

But it is a position that is widely interpreted as tacit backing by Washington for Israel to continue its military operation and try to weaken Hamas as much as possible, our correspondent says.


Friday's protests were called after an Israeli air strike hit the home of Nizar Rayan, a firebrand leader of Hamas who refused to go into hiding, killing him, and several of his wives and children.

"We will not rest until we destroy the Zionist entity," senior Hamas figure Fathi Hammad said at the funeral for the 20 people who died in that attack.


Palestinian youths clash with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem

Meanwhile, about 100 foreign passport holders - mainly women married to Palestinians, and their children - have been allowed by Israel to leave Gaza. Correspondents say it is being seen as a possible last move before Israeli tanks roll in.

Israel is refusing to let international journalists into Gaza, despite a Supreme Court ruling to allow a limited number of reporters to enter the territory.

In the West Bank Palestinian protesters have been directing their anger not just at Israel but at Arab governments and their own leaders for their failure to stop the offensive.


Thousands gathered in Ramallah, while in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem, youths threw stones at security forces, who fired tear gas.

Protests have also been held across the Middle East and in several Asian countries, as well as in Australia and Kenya.

Riot police in Jordan reportedly fired tear gas to stop a march on the Israeli embassy, while in Istanbul thousands of Turks burned Israeli flags after main Friday prayers.

The Egyptian authorities deployed thousands of riot police to prevent demonstrations in Cairo. The Islamist opposition group, The Muslim Brotherhood, said many people had been arrested there.

Ground attack?

Two brothers and a cousin, aged seven to 10, were among those who died in an air raid in southern Gaza, medics and witnesses said.

Palestinian militants fired some 20 rockets at Israel, with some landing in the port of Ashkelon, hitting a block of flats.

Stunned residents spilled on to the street and twisted metal window frames dangled from the building, witnesses say. There were no reports of fatalities.

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
Israel says its air campaign - part of a multilayered effort to stop rocket attacks - has been going to plan.

The Israel Defense Forces have attacked more than 500 Hamas targets in Gaza since the campaign began.

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.

Many Gaza families have moved away from homes near Israel fearing the start of ground operations by troops and armour massed on the edge of the Strip.

The White House has urged Israel to make sure that food and medical supplies reach the people of Gaza.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has said there is no need for a pause in bombing on humanitarian grounds, adding that past ceasefires were used by Hamas to re-arm.

However, Oxfam warned of a dire humanitarian situation in the territory that was getting "worse by the day", with clean water, fuel and food in increasingly short supply.

The aid agency said hospitals were overwhelmed with casualties, and reported that raw sewage was pouring into the streets in Beit Hanoun.

It said "the time for kid-glove diplomacy has long gone", and called for "an immediate and lasting ceasefire" to allow unimpeded humanitarian access into Gaza.

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