GAZA CITY – At least 46 Palestinians, including six children and three women, were killed on Saturday, March 1, during an ongoing Israeli onslaught against the sealed off Gaza Strip.
"We are in the middle of a total war," Abu Alaa, a resident of the northern Gaza Strip town of Jabaliya, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) over phone as he and his children took cover.
"We hear the missiles and the explosions everywhere…we cannot leave our homes.
"They’re shooting at everything that moves," he added.
At least 46 Palestinians, including scores of children and women, were killed during an ongoing Israeli incursion near Jabaliya before dawn.
Doctor Muawiya Hassanein, head of Gaza emergency medical services, said most of the dead were killed by a "great number of missiles fired by Israeli aircraft" in and around Jabaliya.
A 12-year-old girl and her 11-year-old brother were killed by Israeli shrapnel as they slept.
Two sisters in their early 20s and another civilian were killed by Israeli tank shells that struck two houses in separate attacks.
A mother who was preparing breakfast for her kids died when she was hit by Israeli gunfire inside her home.
Among the dead were a 45-year-old man and his 20-year-old son.
News photographers from several media outlets came under Israeli fire, an AFP photographer trapped with them said.
A Palestinian photographer for the local Media Group was lightly wounded when an Israeli shell exploded, an official with the agency said.
Saturday’s fatalities take to at least 84 the number of Palestinians, third of them children, killed in four days of Israeli raids and air strikes in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli special forces crept in the crowded Jabaliya refugee camp just after midnight followed by a wider incursion involving tanks and helicopters.
At least 15 Palestinian fighters, including 10 from Hamas and another two from Islamic Jihad, were killed in air strikes and fierce clashes with the invading Israeli troops.
Israeli soldiers exchanged heavy gunfire with Palestinian fighters on the eastern outskirts of Jabaliya, three kilometers inside Gaza Strip from the borders with Israel.
Two Israeli soldiers were killed and five wounded, three lightly and two light to moderate injuries, the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera news channel reported citing an Israeli army statement.
The Israeli ground forces called in air force support and Israeli aircraft launched missiles at Palestinian fighters during the battle.
Palestinian fighters seemed unbowed by the Israeli aggression.
"The Zionist forces failed in Gaza before," said Abu Obeida, a spokesman for the military wing of Hamas.
"We will respond to any aggression with every available means."
Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas denounced the Israeli assault as "more than a holocaust."
"It’s very regrettable that what is happening is more than a holocaust," he told reporters in Ramallah.
"We tell the world to see with its own eyes and judge for itself what is happening."
Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai on Friday, February 29, threatened the Palestinians in Gaza with a fate worse than the Nazi Holocaust.
Abbas called for "international protection for the Palestinian people" while his office said he had contacted several world leaders to press for an end to the Israeli assault.
"It is unthinkable that Israel’s reaction to Palestinian rocket attacks — which we condemn — can be so terrible and frightening," Abbas said.
Israel claims its offensives in the densely-populated Gaza Strip, home to more than 1.6 million, aims at halting rocket firing into Israel.
The chief of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, said Hamas had offered a truce over the past two weeks but the overtures had been spurned by the Israeli leadership.
Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN agency for refugees (UNRWA), called for an immediate ceasefire and political negotiations to end the fighting.
"I condemn the killing of 12 children in the last four days," he said.
"The killing of children must stop. Those on both sides responsible for the killing of civilians must be held accountable."
Gaza Onslaught in Numbers
– At least 84 Palestinians have been killed since Wednesday. At least 46 Palestinians were killed on Saturday, March 1, alone.
– The Palestinian death toll includes at least 18 kids, three women and 33 civilians.
– One Israeli was killed on Wednesday in a Palestinian rocket attack in the southern town of Sderot, the first death from rocket attacks since last May. Two Israeli soldiers were reportedly killed during their army’s incursion into Gaza on May.
– More than 185 Palestinians have been wounded in Israeli attacks since Wednesday.
– Twenty-five Palestinians are hospitalized in intensive care units while 37 had to undergo surgical operations
– Five Israeli soldiers were lightly injured in clashes with Palestinian resistance activists inside Gaza.
– Five Israelis were lightly injured by 30 Palestinian rockets fired into Israel on Saturday.
(IslamOnline.net, agencies and newspapers)