Hamas declares 'day of wrath' on day seven of Gaza strikes
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Israel continued bombing Gaza on Friday, following Thursday's death of a senior Hamas leader in an Israeli air strike. Israel's army locked down the West Bank, though saying "a few hundred citizens" would be allowed to leave Gaza.
A day after an Israeli airstrike killed a senior Hamas leader in Gaza, the Islamist movement declared a “day of wrath” Friday, calling on Palestinians to demonstrate against Israel’s Gaza offensive after their weekly noon prayers.
Israeli security services are on high alert, especially at Jerusalem’s landmark al Aqsa mosque. The West Bank has also been sealed off with a heavy Israeli security deployment posted at checkpoints.
The heightened tensions on Friday followed another night of Israeli bombings in the Gaza Strip. More than 400 people have been killed and over 2,100 wounded since the Israeli onslaught began on Saturday, according to Palestinian medical sources. The UN says at least 25% of them are civilians.
Four Israelis have been killed by Hamas rockets fired into Israel since the campaign began on Saturday.
Following Thursday’s killing of senior Hamas leader Nizar Rayyan, the Islamist group issued a call for mass demonstrations against the Israeli military operation in Gaza.
“Let Friday be a day of solidarity with our people in Gaza and a day of wrath against the Zionist occupation and its settlers” wrote Hamas on its website. The Islamist group took control of Gaza in 2007 after ousting forces loyal to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas’s Fatah party.
|Message from Hamas to its supporters calling for mass protests in support of Gaza Palestinians"|
Protests broke out on Friday in Australia, Philippines and Indonesia. More than 10, 000 Muslims marched though the Indonesian capital after the Friday noon prayers, with some protestors aiming fake missiles labeled “Target: Tel Aviv, Israel” at the US embassy in Jakarta. In the Egyptian capital of Cairo, hundreds of riot police have been deployed at key mosques. Egyptian police detained about 20 members of the Muslim Brothers group ahead of the opposition group’s call for mass protests, according to the Reuters news service.
Foreign citizens allowed to leave Gaza
On Friday Israel authorised the evacuation of more than 400 foreigners living in the Gaza Strip, mostly spouses of Gaza Palestinians. With a massive Israeli military deployment posted along the Gaza border, the move has renewed fears among Gazans about a possible Israeli ground incursion.
“Some observers see this as a signal that Israel is preparing an escalation in the fighting,” said Annette Young, FRANCE 24’s Jerusalem correspondent.
Reporting from Gaza, Zouheir al Naggar said panic is spreading among Gaza’s residents. “This is the second day that there is serious talk of a ground offensive and people are really scared,” said al Naggar. “The fact that Russian and American foreigners were given only a few hours to evacuate from the Red Cross centre this morning has added to these fears.”
Hundreds of houses have been destroyed and international concern over the humanitarian situation in the densely populated coastal enclave is mounting. Food, fuel and medical supplies are all running short, according to international aid agencies. Speaking in Paris after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Thursday, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said there was “no humanitarian emergency” in the Gaza Strip.
But inside Gaza, al Naggar said the humanitarian situation was grim. “Aid has reached Gaza, but only a minimal amount has been distributed to the population,” he said. “It is in centres which are open only a few hours each day and are too close to potential bombing targets for civilians to dare to go there.”
On Thursday, Livni reiterated Israel’s rejection of an international proposal for a 48-hour ceasefire on humanitarian grounds, saying Hamas had used an earlier six-month truce period to build up its arms.
|Map of Israeli offensive in Gaza, Picture AFP|
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