Friday, January 23, 2009

Israel bombs Gaza despite ‘ceasefire’

The Morning Star
(Thursday 22 January 2009)

Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committee militants holding a press conference to declare victory in the recent conflict with Israel.

DEFIANT: Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committee militants holding a press conference to declare victory in the recent conflict with Israel.

ISRAELI naval gunships shelled a refugee camp near Gaza City in violation of a shaky truce on Thursday, injuring at least five Palestinians.

Residents said that several Israeli naval vessels had fired dozens of shells at the western coast of the Gaza Strip, mainly at Shati refugee camp, wounding at least five people, two seriously.

Another shell landed near a UN aid distribution centre.

The Israeli military says that it was firing to deter a Palestinian fishing vessel that had strayed off-limits. Israeli gunboats have been firing off Gaza’s shore for several days, despite the ceasefire.

The humanitarian situation in the besieged Strip has not improved since Israel called off its devastating three-week offensive, as Tel Aviv has refused to ease the blockade.

And Israeli military operations have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

UN humanitarian chief John Holmes, who toured the Gaza Strip on Wednesday to examine the extent of the devastation left behind by the Israeli offensive, has urged Israel to reopen Gaza’s border crossings.

Israel’s offensive destroyed much of the network of tunnels between the Gaza Strip and Egypt that Palestinians use to bring in vitally needed goods.

Palestinians have already repaired many of the tunnels, but Israel, which claims that they are used to bring Iranian arms into the enclave, has warned of renewed military strikes if the tunnels are reopened.

Some of the tunnels are reportedly already back in operation, with fuel being smuggled in.

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said: “Things must be clear: Israel reserves the right to react militarily against the tunnels once and for all.

“If we have to act, we will do so. We will exercise our right to legitimate defence, we will not leave our fate to the Egyptians, nor to the Europeans nor to the Americans,” Ms Livni warned.

UN Middle East envoy Robert Serry, who toured Gaza on Wednesday, stressed that the Middle East peace process must be resuscitated “because the only reasonable way” to bring a durable peace “is a two-state solution.”

Mr Serry described Israel’s offensive, which killed 1,330 people, as “proof of our collective failure for so long to address the root cause of this conflict, which is occupation.”

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