Posts Tagged ‘middle east conflicts’

In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, during their meeting in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. Ban Ki-moon is visiting the Gaza Strip to inspect the devastation wrought by Israel's three-week onslaught. (AP Photo/GPO, Avi Ohayon, HO) ** ISRAEL OUT **

In this photo released by the Israeli Government Press Office, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, right, talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, during their meeting in Jerusalem, Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2009. Ban Ki-moon is visiting the Gaza Strip to inspect the devastation wrought by Israel's three-week onslaught. (AP Photo/GPO, Avi Ohayon, HO) ** ISRAEL OUT **

Confronted by stark scenes of destruction, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, and Israel was poised to withdraw its troops before the U.S. presidential inauguration later in the day.

Ban, on a Middle East tour, was the highest-ranking international figure to visit the territory since separately declared ceasefires by Israel and Hamas ended a 22-day Israeli offensive and Palestinian cross-border rocket attacks.

As reported by Reuters, ‘The secretary general was keen to express solidarity with the people of Gaza who have suffered so much over the past few weeks and the U.N. staff who have continued heroically to provide assistance despite the difficulties,’ said Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Ban.

Israeli political sources said Israel planned to complete its troop pullout before Barack Obama’s inauguration, scheduled for 1700 GMT. Analysts saw the withdrawal as an effort to avoid any tension with the new U.S. president.

Amid crowds waving Hamas flags, Ban drove in a convoy to the compound of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the city of Gaza.

Last Thursday, Israeli fire set ablaze the UNRWA facility’s food and fuel warehouse, an incident Ban described at the time as ‘an outrage.’ Israel apologized but said it was prompted by fire from gunmen at the compound.

Many Palestinians returned to the rubble of what used to be their homes in Gaza city suburbs that were hard hit during the fighting. They picked through debris, trying to salvage belongings.

Two children playing with unexploded ordnance were killed when it detonated, Hamas officials said.

Ban, who met Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert before traveling to the Gaza Strip, planned to visit southern Israel, an area hit by Palestinian rockets during the Gaza war, later in the day.

At the prime minister’s office, Ban said he wanted to help to make the ceasefire ‘durable.’

World leaders are keen to cement a truce and avoid any more bloodshed in Gaza where more than 1,300 Palestinians were killed in Israel’s air and ground strikes launched on December 27 with the declared aim of ending rocket attacks.

RUINED INFRASTRUCTURE


In a report denied by the Israeli military, Hamas said an Israeli force holding a position near the town of Jabalya shot and killed a 17-year-old Palestinian.

Residents of Maghazi refugee camp said Israeli tanks had shelled houses, causing several casualties. An Israeli military spokeswoman had no immediate comment.

Gaza’s infrastructure has been left in ruins and the repair bill was estimated by the Palestinian statistics bureau to be about $1.9 billion.

Hamas said 5,000 homes, 16 government buildings and 20 mosques were destroyed and that 20,000 houses were damaged. Israel has said militants hid weapons inside the mosques.

Palestinian militant groups said 112 of their fighters and 180 Hamas policemen were killed. Israel put its dead at 10 soldiers and said three civilians were killed in rocket attacks.

Gaza medical officials said the Palestinian dead included at least 700 civilians. Israel, which accused Hamas of endangering non-combatants by operating in densely populated areas, said hundreds of militants were among the dead.

In Geneva, World Health Organization head Margaret Chan warned of a looming health crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia pledged $1 billion for rebuilding and the European Union said the bloc’s foreign ministers planned to meet in Brussels to discuss humanitarian aid and Israeli demands for the prevention of weapons smuggling to Gaza.

Israel had launched its offensive with a vow to ‘change the reality’ for southern border towns that had been the target of rocket fire from Hamas and other militant groups since 2001.

Olmert has declared the mission accomplished, noting diplomatic efforts by the United States, Egypt and European nations to prevent Hamas rearming. Israel has vowed to respond to any renewed flow of arms to Gaza.

The fighting ended just weeks before a February 10 Israeli election. Former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud party is still the front-runner but Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s Labour party has gained in popularity.

Hamas proclaimed victory despite the destruction in Gaza, and its armed wing vowed to replenish its arsenal of rockets.

But Hamas official Mushir al-Masri said talks would continue on Egypt’s proposal for a long-term truce that would assure the reopening of crossings into Gaza, including the Rafah terminal with Egypt that was the main access to the outside world.

Hamas seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah forces in 2007 after winning an election the year before.
Israel and the West boycotted governments led by Hamas because the group rejects Israel’s right to exist.

P/S: In other words. . .Israel LOST. Hamas WINS. Is this over yet? I don’t thing so as ‘Israel has vowed to respond to ANY renewed flow of arms to Gaza’. I think the Israelis backed out alright, but just for a while until they find another ridiculous reason to attack Gaza again.

People look at the bodies of Palestinians killed during Israel's offensive, at Shifa hospital in Gaza January 11, 2009. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

People look at the bodies of Palestinians killed during Israel's offensive, at Shifa hospital in Gaza January 11, 2009. (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

Israeli ground troops battled Palestinian militants in the streets of a densely populated Gaza City neighborhood early Tuesday, destroying dozens of homes and sending terrified residents running for cover as gunfire and explosions echoed in the distance.

Israel’s push into Tel Hawwa neighborhood was the farthest it has moved into Gaza City during its 18-day offensive against Hamas militants, and brought Israel’s ground forces within a mile of the crowded city center. According to The Associated Press(AP), Palestinian hospital officials say more than 900 Palestinians, half of them civilians, have been killed.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 to end years of Palestinian rocket attacks on its southern towns, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has vowed to press forward with an ‘iron fist,’ despite growing international calls for an end to the fighting. U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon was headed to the region Tuesday to press for a cease-fire.

Palestinian witnesses said the Israeli forces moved overnight about 300 yards into Tel Hawwa, a neighborhood of high-rise buildings on the southeastern edge of Gaza City. Palestinian medical officials reported at least 16 people killed in fighting, though the Israeli army suggested the number could be much higher.

One resident, Khader Mussa, said he fled his house while waving a white flag as the Israeli forces advanced. He spent the night huddling in the basement of a relative with 25 other people, including his pregnant wife and his parents.

‘Thank God we survived this time and got out alive from here. But we don’t know how long we’ll be safe in my brother’s home,’ Mussa, 35, told The Associated Press by telephone.

Several buildings were on fire, witnesses said, including a lumberyard. Sounds of the battle could be heard clearly around the city of 400,000 as the Israeli forces, backed by artillery and attack helicopters, moved into neighborhoods east and south of Gaza City. Israeli gunboats shelled the coast from the west.

The Israeli military said it carried out some 60 airstrikes overnight, hitting groups of Hamas militants holed up in a hotel, a house and a mosque. It said it also struck 15 squads of gunmen, rocket launching sites and 15 smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian border.

The army said it had killed or wounded about 30 militants, and that three soldiers were wounded in overnight fighting. Among them was an officer who was seriously wounded when a bomb exploded in a northern Gaza house that he was searching. Weapons, including a machine gun, were later found in the house, the military said.

Dr. Moaiya Hassanain, a Palestinian Health Ministry official said dozens of calls for ambulances had been received, but they could not be dispatched because of the fighting.

The Gaza fighting has raised tensions around the region and galvanized anger toward Israel throughout the Arab world. On Tuesday, at least one gunman opened fire at an Israeli army patrol along the desert border between Israel and Jordan, the military said. There were no casualties, and Jordan said the claim was ‘baseless.’

There was a similar shooting incident on the Israel-Syria border on Sunday, and last week militants in Lebanon fired rockets into an Israeli town in an apparent attempt to draw Israel into a second front.

The Israeli military has tightly controlled information from the battlefield, but indications have been that Hamas has not put up a serious fight. Of the nine Israeli soldiers killed during the offensive, four were killed in ‘friendly fire incidents,’ a military inquiry concluded. Repeated Hamas claims of spectacular attacks on the Israelis have turned out to be false.

Speaking in parliament on Tuesday, Israel’s military chief said his troops have achieved a lot but ‘still have work to do’ in fighting Hamas in Gaza.

‘The soldiers are doing exceptional work, with many achievements in inflicting damage on Hamas, its infrastructure, its government and military wing,’ he said.

Palestinian rocket fire has been greatly reduced, but not halted altogether, since the offensive was launched.

As diplomats struggled with the truce efforts, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Israel would end the military operations only when Hamas stops rocketing Israel and halts weapons smuggling across the porous border.

‘Anything else will be met with the Israeli people’s iron fist,’ Olmert said.

He spoke Monday in the town of Ashkelon, where life has largely been paralyzed by rocket fire from Gaza.

Later, he tempered his tough talk, saying: ‘I really hope that the efforts we are making with the Egyptians these days will ripen to a result that will enable us to end the fighting.’ Egypt, which often mediates between Israel and Hamas, and international diplomats have been furiously working toward a solution that would stop the fighting.

In a speech broadcast on the group’s Al Aqsa TV station, Hamas’ prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, claimed his group would continue fighting, but said it was pursuing diplomacy to end the conflict. He said any truce would require an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the opening of the territory’s blockaded borders.

‘As we are in the middle of this crisis, we tell our people we, God willing, are closer to victory. All the blood that is being shed will not go to waste,’ Haniyeh said.

Like other Hamas leaders, Haniyeh is in hiding, and it was not clear from where he was speaking.

Inside Gaza on Monday, an Israeli battalion commander identified only as Lt. Col. Yehuda said troops had not met significant resistance. He said troops found several houses booby-trapped either with regular explosives, or by sealing the windows and doors and opening cooking gas valves.

‘A couple of days ago, an armed squad popped up from a tunnel that was concealed by a nearby building. We took them out with tank fire and a bulldozer,’ he said.

The officer’s comment was approved by Israeli military censors. He spoke to a small group of reporters who accompanied Israeli units inside Gaza. Israeli forces have not allowed journalists to enter Gaza to cover the war.

Much of the diplomacy focuses on an area of southern Gaza just across the Egyptian border that serves as a weapons smuggling route, making Egypt critical to both sides in any deal.

Israel wants smuggling tunnels along the border sealed and monitored as part of any peace deal, and has been bombing the tunnels throughout the campaign.

The U.N. Security Council has already passed a resolution calling for a cease-fire. Ban was headed to the Mideast on Tuesday to enforce the measure.

Speaking at U.N. headquarters in New York on Monday, Ban said he has been on the phone constantly with top officials in the Middle East, Europe and the United States promoting the cease-fire. But he said phone calls are not a substitute for direct talks with leaders who have influence on the parties.

‘To both sides, I say: Just stop, now,’ the U.N. chief said.

‘Too many people have died. There has been too much civilian suffering. Too many people, Israelis and Palestinians, live in daily fear of their lives.’

The secretary-general said he plans to meet senior officials in Egypt and Jordan on Wednesday, then head to Israel, the West Bank, Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.

The fighting has raised concerns about a looming humanitarian disaster in Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people are without power and running water. The Israeli army said about 100 truckloads of humanitarian aid, including wheat, flour and medical supplies, were expected to be let into the territory on Tuesday.

P/S: *sighs~ if only I have more money and power. . . then I can help our fellow Palestinians more. I feel helpless as it is. . . *praying. God, please save the Palestinians as they are just the victims of life. . .Amiiin~

Smoke is seen from an explosion after an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City on Sunday morning, waging one of their fiercest ground battles so far as Israel's military inched closer to Gaza's main population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Smoke is seen from an explosion after an Israeli strike in Gaza City, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009. Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City on Sunday morning, waging one of their fiercest ground battles so far as Israel's military inched closer to Gaza's main population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Israeli troops battled Palestinian gunmen in a suburb of Gaza City Sunday in one of the fiercest ground battles so far as Israel’s military inched toward Gaza’s population centers and residents braced for an expansion of the offensive.

The fighting in the Sheikh Ajleen neighborhood erupted before dawn and continued through the morning as Israeli infantrymen and tanks advanced toward Gaza City and its approximately 400,000 residents, Palestinian witnesses said to The Associated Press(AP) today. Hamas and the smaller militant group Islamic Jihad said they ambushed the Israelis, leading to some of the heaviest fighting since Israel sent ground forces into the coastal territory on Jan. 3.

Gunfire subsided in the early afternoon, with the Israelis in control of buildings on the neighborhood’s outskirts.

Israel launched its offensive against Hamas on Dec. 27 in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire from Gaza at Israeli towns. Gaza health officials have counted more than 820 Palestinians dead and say at least half are civilians. The Israeli military says troops have killed some 300 armed fighters since the ground offensive began and that many more were killed in the week of aerial bombardments that preceded it.

Thirteen Israelis have died, three of them civilians.

‘Israel is nearing the goals which it set itself, but more patience, determination and effort is still demanded,’ Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said ahead of his government’s weekly meeting Sunday.

The U.N. Security Council called for an immediate cease-fire Thursday, but Olmert said Israel ‘never agreed that anyone would decide for us if it is permissible to strike at those who send bombs against our kindergartens and schools.’

Hamas, the Islamic group whose government controls Gaza but is not recognized internationally, likewise has ignored the resolution, complaining that it was not consulted.

Israeli defense officials say they are prepared for a third stage of their offensive, in which ground troops would push further into Gaza, but are waiting for approval from the government. Israel dropped leaflets on Gaza on Saturday warning of a wider offensive.

The first phase was the massive aerial bombardment, and the second saw ground forces enter Gaza, seize open areas used to fire rockets and surround Gaza City. The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because military plans have not been made public, said the army also has a contingency plan for a fourth phase -the full reoccupation of Gaza and toppling of Hamas.

At least 14 people were killed in Sunday’s fighting in and around Sheikh Ajleen, Palestinian health officials said. How many were militants and how many civilians was not immediately known. There was no word on Israeli casualties.

‘We are safe, but we don’t know for how long,’ said Khamis Alawi, 44, who huddled with his wife and six children in their kitchen overnight. He said bullets riddled his walls and several came in through the windows.

Hamas militants launched barrages of rockets at the Israeli city of Beersheba and at the town of Sderot. Hamas has been hard-hit by the Israeli offensive, but continued to fire rockets from Palestinian residential areas, paralyzing much of southern Israel.

Open areas in northern Gaza from which militants once launched many of their rockets are now in Israeli hands.

Israeli warplanes bombed targets along the Egypt-Gaza frontier near the town of Rafah early Sunday, shattering windows at the border terminal. The area is riddled by tunnels used to smuggle weapons and supplies into Gaza, and has been repeatedly bombed throughout the Israeli offensive.

At least 20 Palestinians had been killed across Gaza by midday Sunday, according to Gaza health officials. Most were noncombatants, they said, including four members of one family killed when a tank shell hit their home near Gaza City.

The military says Hamas fighters are wearing civilian clothes and endangering civilians by operating out of heavily populated residential areas.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces fired phosphorus shells early Sunday at Khouza, a village near the border, setting a row of houses on fire. Hospital official Dr. Yusuf Abu Rish said a woman was killed and more than 100 injured, most suffering from gas inhalation and burns.

Israeli military spokesman Capt. Guy Spigelman denied the claims. One of the main uses of phosphorous shells is to create smoke and mask ground forces, which is legal under international law, but the chemical can be harmful if used in densely populated areas.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made a fiery speech on Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, describing the Israeli assault as a ‘holocaust.’ Still, Hamas teams were in Cairo to discuss a cease-fire proposed by Egypt.

Israel wants a guarantee that any cease-fire would end Hamas rocket fire and weapons smuggling from Egypt. Hamas is demanding that Israel open Gaza’s blockaded border crossings. Israel is unlikely to agree to that condition because it would hand Hamas a victory and allow the group to strengthen its hold on the territory it violently seized in June 2007.

Struggling to keep peace efforts alive, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has urged Israel and Hamas to agree to a truce. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier was set to hold talks with Israeli leaders Sunday in Egypt in an attempt to advance the Security Council’s cease-fire call.

‘Israel must be persuaded to let the firearms rest now,’ Steinmeier told reporters Sunday.

One of the deadliest single incidents since the offensive began was an Israeli strike near a U.N. school Tuesday that Gaza health officials said killed 39 Palestinians. On Sunday, Israeli defense officials said an investigation by the military concluded that an Israeli mortar shell missed its target and hit near the school.

The Israeli investigation concluded that troops fired three mortar shells at Hamas militants who had just launched a rocket, the officials said. Two shells hit the target, but a third missed by about 30 yards, striking near the school and killing bystanders. The Israeli military believes the number of casualties was inflated by Hamas.

The defense officials spoke Sunday on condition of anonymity because the investigation has not been made public, and there was no official comment from the military.

The U.N. agency in charge of Palestinian refugees has resumed its operations after suspending them because of Israeli attacks on its convoys. U.N. Relief and Works Agency spokesman Christopher Gunness said nine aid convoys were planned Sunday, but that the Israeli military had to ‘stand up and deliver’ on its promises to allow aid to reach Gaza civilians.

But the international Red Cross said Sunday it was halting its service of escorting Palestinian medical teams after one of its ambulances came under fire on Saturday during a three-hour lull declared by Israel to allow aid groups to do their work in besieged areas.

Red Cross spokesman Iyad Nasr said his organization is still investigating the source of the fire.

The Red Cross escorts are meant to provide extra protection to Palestinian ambulances and guarantee that all occupants are civilians. In the past Israel has charged that ambulances have been used to transport militants and arms.

P/S: A miss? how about that? are ALL the bombs and bullets that killed up to 800 palestinians now was a miss too? I just don’t believe it.

An Israeli left wing activist holds a sign during a protest against the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. Israeli forces pounded rocket-launching sites and smuggling tunnels in Gaza Saturday and planes dropped leaflets warning of an escalation in attacks, as Palestinian militants fired at least 15 more rockets at Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

An Israeli left wing activist holds a sign during a protest against the Israeli strikes on the Gaza Strip in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, Jan. 10, 2009. Israeli forces pounded rocket-launching sites and smuggling tunnels in Gaza Saturday and planes dropped leaflets warning of an escalation in attacks, as Palestinian militants fired at least 15 more rockets at Israel. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

Israel dropped bombs and leaflets on Gaza on Saturday, pounding suspected rocket sites and tunnels used by Hamas militants and warning of a wider offensive despite frantic diplomacy to end the bloodshed.

According to The Associated Press(AP), Egypt hosted talks aimed at defusing the crisis, but war had the momentum on a bloody day on which more than 30 Palestinians, many of them noncombatants, were killed, according to Gaza medics. Hamas fighters launched 15 rockets at southern Israel, injuring three Israelis in the city of Ashkelon, the Israeli military said.

At hospitals, distraught relatives -men in jeans and jackets and women in black Islamic robes- sobbed and shrieked at the loss of family. Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas predicted a ‘waterfall of blood’ unless all parties adhere to a United Nations call for a cease-fire. But Israel has said the Security Council resolution passed Thursday was unworkable and Hamas, the Islamic group whose government controls Gaza but is not recognized internationally, was angry that it was not consulted.

Damascus-based Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal made a fiery speech on Arab news channel Al-Jazeera, describing the Israeli assault as a ‘holocaust.’ Still, Hamas teams were in Cairo to discuss a cease-fire proposed by Egypt.

At least 814 Palestinians, roughly half of them civilians, have died since war broke out on Dec. 27, according to Palestinian medical officials. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, have been killed.

Weary Palestinians watched from apartment windows as thousands of leaflets fluttered from aircraft with a blunt warning: Israeli forces will step up operations against Islamic militants who have unleashed a daily barrage of rocket fire on southern Israeli towns.

‘The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) is not working against the people of Gaza but against Hamas and the terrorists only,’ the leaflets said in Arabic. “Stay safe by following our orders.’

The leaflets urged Gaza residents not to help Hamas and to stay away from its members. There was no immediate sign of an escalation, though earlier in the day, witnesses said Israeli troops moved to within one mile of Gaza City before pulling back slightly.

Israeli defense officials say they are prepared for a third stage of their offensive, in which ground troops would push further into Gaza, but are waiting for approval from the government. Early on Sunday, Israeli tanks were heard moving near the central Gaza border as Israeli artilley pounded the area, indicating the possibility of a larger operation.

Palestinian witnesses said Israeli forces fired phosphorus shells at Khouza, a village near the border, setting a row of houses on fire. Hospital official Dr. Yusuf Abu Rish said a woman was killed and more than 100 injured, most suffering from gas inhalation and burns. Israeli military spokesman Capt. Guy Spigelman categorically dened the claims.

The Israeli military said it did not know of such an incident. Also, Hamas security officials said fierce battles were in progress early Sunday in eastern Gaza City and northern Gaza.

The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were discussing classified information, said the army also has a fourth stage planned that calls for a full reoccupation of Gaza and toppling of Hamas.

The leaflets reflected Israeli efforts to cast Hamas as the source of the conflict that has brought additional misery to Gaza’s 1.4 million people, who live in poverty in the densely inhabited shard of land along the Mediterranean. Israel hopes the suffering will erode support for Hamas, which won 2006 elections and engineered a violent takeover of Gaza in June 2007, overrunning the forces of its Palestinian rival Fatah.

For now, though, the fury of the Israeli onslaught has deepened bitterness toward Israel among trapped Gaza residents. Traffic through border crossings with Egypt and Israel is heavily restricted, and many Gazans survive on international handouts or goods smuggled through tunnels that are also used by Hamas to bring in weapons.

Israel launched the offensive on Dec. 27 after years of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, and has attributed many civilian casualties in the past two weeks to Hamas’s alleged use of civilian areas as hiding places and staging grounds for attacks.

On Jan. 3, Israeli ground troops moved into Gaza, but they have largely avoided deployment in built-up areas where they would be more vulnerable to hit-and-run assaults. Israel holds elections in one month, and its leaders know staunch support for the military campaign could dwindle if the forces take heavy casualties.

The 15 rockets launched at southern Israel are part of a daily ritual that has severely disrupted life for hundreds of thousands of civilians. Three Israelis were injured in the city of Ashkelon.

The Israeli military said aircraft attacked more than 40 Hamas targets including 10 rocket-launching sites, weapons-storage facilities, smuggling tunnels, an anti-aircraft missile launcher and gunmen. At least 15 militants were killed, it said.

In the day’s bloodiest incident, an Israeli tank shell killed nine people in a garden outside a home in the northern Gaza town of Jebaliya, said Adham el-Hakim, administrator of Kamal Adwan hospital. The nine were from the same clan and included two children and two women.

The Israeli military, however, said its forces did not carry out attacks in that area on Saturday.

Struggling to keep peace efforts alive, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Abbas urged Israel and Hamas to agree to a truce.

After meeting Mubarak, Abbas warned there was no time to waste in ending the bloodshed in Gaza.

‘If any party does not accept it (the truce), regrettably it will be the one bearing the responsibility. And if Israel doesn’t want to accept, it will take the responsibility of perpetuating a waterfall of blood,’ Abbas said.

Hamas and Abbas’s Fatah party, which dominates the West Bank, are fierce political rivals.

Hamas officials from both Gaza and Syria are also in Cairo for separate talks with Egyptian officials on a truce. Israeli officials were in Cairo earlier this week.

U.S. President George W. Bush spoke by telephone to President Abdullah Gul of Turkey, which is involved in Mideast peace efforts, about the situation in Gaza, said a spokesman for the National Security Council in Washington.

‘President Bush emphasized the importance of bringing an end to rocket fire against Israel and preventing arms smuggling into Gaza as the basis for a durable cease-fire,’ spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on a peace mission to the region, visited the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt and saw a fireball from a large detonation in Gaza. He felt the pressure from the blast, which caused windows to rattle.

‘We are standing here while the fighting is still on back there,’ said Steinmeier, who later traveled to Israel. ‘It is right and correct to be concerned about the injured and the dead, but the European foreign ministers must do more so that words can be turned into deeds.’

The U.N. estimates two-thirds of Gaza’s 1.4 million people now lack electricity, and half don’t have running water.

The Israeli military announced a three-hour halt to operations in Gaza on Saturday to let medics use the lull to rescue casualties and aid groups to rush through food distribution. But for the second straight day, fighting continued even during the lull.

Israel has called for the three-hour breaks in fighting for the past four days. But aid groups say it isn’t enough time to do their work.

Also on Saturday, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in European cities and Lebanon, shouting protests against the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

P/S: Honestly saying, I think the israelis are being diagnose of some hearing problem of somewhat at the current moment when they’re clearly are turning deaf ears to the world shouting at them for cease-fire and peace.