Israeli forces continue to consolidate what is being described as a “buffer zone” in the northern Gaza Strip to prevent Palestinian rocket attacks. The offensive, now in its 10th day, has left at least 40 Palestinians dead, according to Israeli forces. In fierce fighting yesterday 19 Palestinians and one Israeli were killed. The Israelis launched the offensive to rescue one of their soldiers taken hostage by militants and stop Palestinian missiles, which have reached as far as Ashkelon.
The Palestinian Prime Minister Islamil Haniyeh has called for the international community to intervene, describing the bloodshed as a “crime against humanity”. Hamas claims the Israelis are using the soldier’s kidnapping as an excuse to try to topple its government. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat: “The international community cannot continue just watching things as if nothing is happening. We’re a people with no armies, no navies, no airforce, and we are an international responsibility.”
The Israelis want to stop rocket attacks, according to an army spokesman: “The current ground effort is focused on what you might call a Qassam net, which is the territories, the areas, from which the Qassam rockets were launched towards Israel in the last couple of months,” he said. The Israelis stress that the army’s offensive does not amount to a re-occupation of the northern Gaza Strip, and that they will leave when their mission is accomplished.