Exclusive footage from our Observers: 'Through the wardrobe... into Gaza'
The Israeli offensive continued in the Gaza Strip late on Friday, according to FRANCE 24’s Radja Abou Dagga in Gaza City, who reported that Israeli fire hit a building housing several journalists.
“The situation is getting worse and worse,” says Abou Dagga, “there are explosions everywhere and everybody is very scared.”
“Half an hour ago, a building housing several journalists was bombed,” he reported. “This sends a violent message to reporters here as two journalists were wounded in the strike,” he added.
Earlier, Israeli tanks opened fire in several locations of the Gaza Strip despite a pledge to halt bombardment for three hours to let Palestinians get food and medical help.
“The daily truce was not respected today,” said FRANCE 24’s Lucas Menget on the Israeli border with Gaza, near the northern town of Beit Lahiya. “Petrol stockrooms in Beit Lahya were hit by artillery and helicopter shells.”
“I can hear a lot of machineguns and tanks firing,” he said.
Tanks shelled targets in Jabaliya and Beit Lahya in the north and in the Zeitun neighbourhood of Gaza City, eyewitnesses told AFP.
FRANCE 24's Zouheir al Najjar reports from Gaza City. 09.01.09 4:00 PM
According to an Israeli army spokesman, the Israeli air force hit at least 50 targets on Friday across the enclave, including launching pads for rockets and facilities used to manufacture rockets. On the 14th day of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, Israeli strikes have killed a total of over 785 Palestinians and wounded over 3,300.
The United Nations on Friday cited witnesses saying Israeli soldiers evacuated about 110 Palestinians into a house which Israeli forces repeatedly shelled 24 hours later, killing about 30 people.
UN resolution rejected
On Friday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert rejected a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. Olmert blamed the continuing rocket fire coming from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip for undermining any prospect of an end to the conflict.
Israel's security cabinet also criticised what it called a lack of precision in the UN resolution and decided to continue the offensive, after debating for the second time in three days whether to send in reservists for a push into the Gaza Strip's towns and cities.
“The Israeli security cabinet concluded that the objectives had not yet been reached,” reported FRANCE 24’s Marc de Chalvron in Jerusalem.
“The cabinet also criticised the UN resolution for being too vague on measures to improve security on the southern Gaza border,” through which weapons are smuggled into the Gaza Strip, he said.
Hamas rejected the UN resolution
Meanwhile, Gaza's Hamas rulers sent mixed signals about the resolution. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said the group did not recognise the resolution as it had not been consulted. However, another spokesman said Hamas was "studying" the resolution, according to Reuters.
A Hamas delegation including leaders from Gaza is also expected in Cairo to discuss Egypt’s ceasefire plan, a first since Israel began its onslaught on the territory.
Earlier on Friday, fourteen of the 15 members in the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for an "immediate, durable" ceasefire leading to the "full withdrawal" of Israeli forces from Gaza. Only the United States, Israel’s main ally, abstained as it wanted to see the outcome of a peace initiative by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Humanitarian crisis deepens
“The humanitarian situation is critical,” reported Sophie Claudet, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Jerusalem. “A third of the dead are children and there’s no power in 75% of Gaza.”
On Friday, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said it was waiting for Israeli guarantees before beginning anew its humanitarian operations in Gaza. “The UN has received credible information (from Israel) according to which the security of UN personnel, its installations and humanitarian operations would be fully respected”, spokeswoman Michèle Montas said.
The agency suspended its operations in Gaza after one of its convoys was hit by Israeli tank shells Thursday.