Israel began an extensive offensive in Gaza last week- its biggest military operation in a year - claiming that it's aimed at releasing Cpl Gilad Shalit, captured by Palestinian resistance groups on June 25, and stopping Palestinian fighters from firing rockets into Israel.
In a major escalation of the conflict, Israeli troops entered northern Gaza yesterday to create a buffer zone in the area, raising the possibility of an extended military presence in the area, despite Israeli officials' claims that they don't plan to re-occupy the strip.
Israeli occupation forces are now stationed around the northern Gaza towns of Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya. They also re-occupied the Dugit, Elei Sinai and Nissanit settlements that were evacuated last September.
Since the offensive began, Israel killed more than 40 Palestinian fighters, its missiles destroyed the only power plant in Gaza, struck the Gaza offices of the prime minister and the interior minister, bombed Hamas' facilities and Palestinian infrastructure, and arrested a third of the Hamas-led cabinet.
The massive land and air offensive on Gaza forced Palestinian residents to flee their homes.
In response to Israel's deadly offensive, Hamas' armed wing fired two Qassam rockets at the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon, marking the first time Palestinian fighters hit a major Israeli city.
- "Crimes against humanity"
Early Friday, an Israeli missile struck the northern town of Beit Lahiya, killing a Palestinian fighter and injuring three others, Palestinian security officials said.
Beit Lahiya witnessed fierce clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian fighters on Thursday, in which five Palestinians, including civilians, and an Israeli died.
In the occupied West Bank, Israeli troops raided a refugee camp in the northern city of Jenin, killing a 16-year-old Palestinian and injuring several more people, medical sources said.
Reports say Israeli police have arrested 749 Palestinians in the last few days, claiming that they were iving in Israel illegally.
A new poll showed that 82% of the Israelis want Hamas leaders assassinated in order to secure the release of the captured soldier. Another 52% of the respondents favored the bombing of Gaza infrastructure, even if this could lead to civilian deaths.
The survey, released Friday, also showed that 53% thought the Israeli military should reoccupy parts of the Gaza Strip.
Meanwhile, Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, who belongs to the ruling Hamas party, slammed the Gaza offensive as "collective punishment" and called for international intervention to stop Israel's "crimes against humanity".
Haniya, who has been directly targeted by Israeli forces, said the Gaza offensive is "a desperate effort to undermine the Palestinian government under the pretext of a search for the missing soldier".
The Palestinian Interior Ministry in the Hamas-led government, which is boycotted both financially and politically by Israel and the West, put its security on high alert and demanded all Palestinians to do their duty by "resisting this treacherous invasion and aggression of the cowardly Zionists".
In another development, the UN Security Council debated a draft resolution demanding an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the release of detained Palestinian officials.
The resolution, presented by Qatar on behalf of the UN's Arab Group, calls on Israel, as the occupying power, to abide by its obligations under the Geneva Convention and protect civilians in time of war.
Correspondents say the draft isn't likely to be adopted due to opposition from the United States, Israel's closes ally, which described it as "unbalanced" because it didn't mention the Palestinian rocket attacks and the capture of the Israeli soldier.
On Thursday, the UN Human rights watchdog passed a resolution denouncing Israel's offensive as a violation of international law.Last Mod: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16