Israeli jets and helicopters bombarded Gaza early yesterday and Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel, as Israel’s government said it would press forward with its offensive despite a UN resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire.
One Israeli airstrike killed two Hamas militants and another unidentified man, while another flattened a five-story building in northern Gaza, killing at least seven people, including an infant, Hamas security officials said. By midday, 19 Palestinians had been killed.
In all, Israeli aircraft struck more than 30 targets before dawn and constant explosions continued after first light. Yesterday’s deaths in Gaza pushed the Palestinian death toll to about 760 in the two-week-old conflict, at least half of them civilians, Gaza health officials said. Thirteen Israelis have died.
In Israel’s first official response to the UN Security Council resolution, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said Israel “has never agreed to let an external body decide its right to protect the security of its citizens.”
The military “will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given,” the statement said.
The rockets that continued to fall in Israel yesterday “only prove that the UN’s decision is not practical and will not be kept in practice by the Palestinian murder organizations.”
Israel launched its assault on Dec. 27 in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled territory.
Despite the devastating offensive, Hamas continued to bombard residents of southern Israel. Rockets hit yesterday morning across southern Israel, including in and around Beersheba and Ashkelon, which — like other cities within rocket range of Gaza — have largely been paralyzed since the fighting began.
The UN Security Council resolution was approved on Thursday night by a 14-0 vote, with the US abstaining. The resolution “stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.”
Israel and Hamas were not parties to the council vote and it is now up to them to stop the fighting. But a Hamas spokesman said the Islamic militant group “is not interested” in the ceasefire because it was not consulted and the resolution did not meet its minimum demands.
Israel called up thousands of reserve troops earlier in the week and they are now ready for action.
The Security Council action came hours after a UN agency suspended food deliveries to Gaza and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers. It also followed concerns of a wider conflict after militants in Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel early on Thursday.
The US abstained from the Security Council vote even though it helped hammer out the resolution’s text along with Arab nations that have ties to Hamas and the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the US “fully supports” the resolution, but abstained “to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation” with Israel and Hamas.
The conflict has left hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza increasingly desperate for food, water, fuel and medical assistance.
Also See: AI Taiwan protests Gaza attacks