Article published on the 2009-01-06 Latest update 2009-01-07 11:21 TU
French president Nicolas Sarkozy has extended his diplomatic visit to the Middle East after meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and planning an extra meeting with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
"I am convinced Syria can make an important contribution in the search for a solution," said the French leader who believes that "we are not far from solutions".
His comments came as fighting continued in cities in Gaza, bringing the number of Palestinian dead to 635. Israel says it has killed 130 Hamas fighters since its attack began.
Six Israeli soldiers have died since the beginning of the land offensive, while a further four Israelis have died from rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
Over 120 Israelis, and over 2,900 Palestinians, have been wounded.
Captain David Yishai, a spokesman for the Israeli army, says "the operation is far from being complete" although he told RFI that the army was "not going to go after every single terrorist or every single missile that Hamas has".
Civilian casualties continued on Tuesday when 40 Palestinians sheltering in a United Nations school were killed by an Israeli attack. Yishai said "unfortunately from time to time, and in significant numbers sometimes, civilians are hurt".
He placed responsibility ultimately with Hamas however. "The body that should be accountable for anything that goes on in this conflict is Hamas itself because it has been the one that has been firing rockets along with other terrorist organisations into Israel over the past eight years," said the spokesman.
Dr. Abdellatif al-Haj of the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Yunis says "This is the first time we've seen this type of punishment on the people" referring to the continued Israeli offensive. "The main problem is that Israeli shelling and bombing is without aims and they are targeting civilian houses," he added.
The UN Security Council is expected to meet on Tuesday to consider the situation. Correspondent Elias Zananeri in Jerusalem says that "neither side seems to be keen on accepting a ceasefire at this point".
He says that each side is trying to obtain "any kind of a tangible achievement or accomplishment before the ceasefire goes into effect".
After four Israeli soldiers died in "friendly fire" on Monday, Zananeri believes "the Israeli army and the Israeli politicians are not in a hurry to take any decision adopting a ceasefire because that would mean that Hamas has scored quite a few points on the media and the public opinion".
He says the Israeli strategy is to continue its offensive into Gaza and that a retreat is not imminent.
2009-01-04 16:26 TU