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Israel launches retaliatory air raids in Gaza

Article published on the 2008-12-27 Latest update 2008-12-29 10:49 TU

Israeli bombs explode in Beit Lahiya, Gaza.(Photo: Reuters)

Israeli bombs explode in Beit Lahiya, Gaza.
(Photo: Reuters)

At least 150 people have been killed in the densely populated Gaza Strip Saturday after Israeli forces launched a series of air raids in response to rockets fired by Hamas militants. Israel warned that this was only the beginning of its military response as Hamas fighters, undeterred, continued to fire rockets into Israel.

Hamas authorities originally reported 140 deaths before raising that number to 155, alongside more than 200 wounded. Among the dead is Tawfik Jaber, the cheif of police in Gaza, after heavy raids targeted police headquarters in Gaza City, where most of the casualties were found.

"This is only just the beginning of an operation launched after a security cabinet decision. It could take time. We have not fixed a timeline and we will act according to the situation on the ground," Israeli military spokesman Avi Benayahu said.

Almost immediately after the morning air raids, Hamas ordered more rocket fire on Israel, killing one woman in the southern town of Netivot.

Tensions have been rising in the region after a six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel ended on 19 December. Israel had been threatening a military reprisal for several days after increasing rocket attacks began last week.

"We had warned the civilian population in the Gaza Strip of our attacks and Hamas, which hides within this population, is solely responsible for this situation," an army spokesman said.

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, of the rival Fatah faction, condemned the raids, his spokesman in the West Bank said.