Page last updated at 10:38 GMT, Friday, 9 January 2009

Bombs hit Gaza as UN urges truce


Air strikes continue after ceasefire call

Israeli aircraft continued to bomb Gaza overnight as the UN urged an immediate end to nearly two weeks of conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.

A Security Council resolution called for a ceasefire, access for aid workers and a lasting solution to the conflict.

Overnight, at least 50 air strikes hit Gaza, one attack reportedly killing five Palestinians. Militants fired several rockets into southern Israel.

It is estimated 770 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have been killed so far.

Meanwhile, witnesses have told the UN that about 30 Palestinians died earlier this week as Israeli forces shelled a house in Gaza City into which Israeli soldiers had previously moved more than 100 people, half of them children.

Israel said the allegations into the shelling of the house in the Zeitoun district were being investigated.

Smoke rises over Gaza (06/01/2009)

After the Security Council vote, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Israel would continue to act bearing the security of its citizens in mind.

Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, told the BBC that Hamas must not be able to rearm itself, and that the UN resolution "does not provide practical means to create a sustainable ceasefire".

The Israeli security cabinet is meeting to consider its reaction and next steps.

The BBC's Tim Franks in Jerusalem says there is no guarantee that the UN's call for an immediate end to hostilities will be met.

Hamas officials dismissed the UN resolution as not being "in the best interest" of Palestinians.

Ayman Taha, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said: "Even though we are the main actors on the ground in Gaza, we were not consulted about this resolution and they have not taken into account our vision and the interests of our people."


In another development, a prominent Egyptian cleric called on Muslims across the world to stage rallies on Friday to demonstrate anger at the violence.

Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who heads the Union of Islamic Scholars, said Friday prayers should be dedicated to expressing solidarity with the Palestinians.

Israel has stationed thousands of extra police in east Jerusalem, in case of protests after Muslim Friday prayers.

'Durable ceasefire'

Early on Friday, Israeli planes launched fresh strikes on targets in Gaza. At least five members of one family were killed in one attack, witnesses said.

In a report which could not be verified independently, Hamas said a bomb had flattened a five-storey apartment block in northern Gaza.


Reports of new attacks emerged as 14 out of 15 Security Council members backed a resolution on the crisis.

The resolution called for an "immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire" leading to the "full withdrawal" of Israeli forces from Gaza.

It also called for "the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance", measures to prevent arms smuggling to Palestinian militants and the opening of border crossings into Gaza.

It is the first time the Security Council has acted since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began on 27 December.

The US chose to abstain, thinking it "important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation efforts, in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting", US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained.

Israeli officials visited Cairo on Thursday to hear details of a plan put forward by Egypt and France.

A Hamas delegation is also expected in the Egyptian capital at some stage for parallel "technical" talks, Egyptian diplomats said.

Israel wants to stop rocket attacks on southern Israel and to stop Hamas smuggling weapons into Gaza via Egypt, while Hamas says any ceasefire deal must include an end to Israel's blockade of Gaza.

The Security Council's near-unanimous vote represents an important diplomatic punctuation mark in this crisis, correspondents say.

But the US abstention weakened the impact of the vote because Washington's support would have placed more pressure on Israel to halt its offensive, they add.

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