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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Les civils sous les bombes

Civilians Under Aerial Bombardment

Dominique Bari

Translated Wednesday 7 January 2009, by Clare Faulder

The death toll continues to rise, with over 400 dead and 2000 injured. The UN estimates that a quarter of the casualties are civilians.

In Gaza, there has been no respite. 2009 has started the way 2008 ended: with the continuation of Israeli raids and bombs raining down. The human death toll rises hourly. On the sixth day of the offensive, the Israeli Air Force bombed the Justice, Education and Transport Ministries and the Palestinian parliament building. According to eyewitness reports, they have been reduced practically to ruins. The Navy also attacked targets from the sea.

Nizar Rayyan, a senior Hamas political leader, was killed yesterday, along with his four wives, two daughters, aged seven and ten, and three other people in a raid on the five-storey building where he lived with his family in the Jabaliya refugee camp in Northern Gaza.

He is the first high-ranking official in the Islamist movement to become a casualty of the offensive. An Israeli military spokesperson would only confirm that his building had been targeted by the Air Force.

Shortly before the attack, Hamas, through its spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, had confirmed that it accepted the proposals formulated by the European Union with the aim of establishing a ceasefire, “on condition that the (Israeli) aggression ceases, the blockade is lifted, border posts are opened and we are given international guarantees that the occupying forces will not resume this terrorist war.”

The ground offensive is taking shape. According to Thursday’s edition of Haaretz, the Israeli Army has recommended a large-scale but brief ground operation. Tanks and soldiers are massed along the border of the territory. “This is only the beginning,” warned the Israeli Deputy Defence Minister on Israeli military radio. “We are working to inflict a crushing defeat on Hamas. This is exactly what we said from the start and nothing has changed.”

Over the last few days, the Israeli Government has approved the mobilisation of 2,500 reservists. This follows the recall of 6,500 reservists already sent to the border of the Gaza Strip.

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