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Middle East

Palestinian says civilian casualities at 700, Israeli army moves into Gaza city

Article published on the 2009-01-11 Latest update 2009-01-11 14:17 TU

An Israeli tank moves towards the border with the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday
(Photo: Reuters)

An Israeli tank moves towards the border with the northern Gaza Strip on Sunday
(Photo: Reuters)

At dawn on Sunday Israeli infantry and tanks withdrew from the south of Gaza city where they had advanced overnight. Fighting took place near the neighbourhood of Tal al-Hawa in the south of the city with Palestinian fighters using bombs, mortars and guns.

Bombing on the Gaza strip continued overnight with the Israeli airforce hitting about 60 targes. The Israeli military said  weapons depots and smuggling tunnels were hit.

Seven rockets were fired up to 40 kilometres into Israel on Sunday without causing any casualties.

By mid-morning on Sunday medics in Gaza said 26 Palestinians had been killed, bringing the death toll to at least 875 Palestinians killed since the start of the Israeli offensive. Thirteen Israelis have been killed in the same period.

The number of injured is at over 3,600 Palestinians according to Gaza medical services.

Hamdi Shakura, the head of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights told RFI this weekend that Palestinian civilian casualties were close to 700, putting the figure higher than the United Nations.

"The number here includes, up to date, 193 children and 53 women plus to this six members of the medical teams and three journalists," he said.

"This is the war against civilians according to our data according to what we see on the ground. So far Hamas has not been hit by Israeli forces and they know that," he added.

However Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Sunday that Israel was approaching the goals it had set for the offensive. Israel has said its target in the current offensive is Hamas, and not Palestinian civilians.

Correspondent Peretz Kidron in Jerusalem said he would be "cautious about anything coming out of the cabinet" adding that while "there doesn't seem to be major disagreement" in the cabinet, there may be temporary unity during the offensive.

Interview: correspondent Peretz Kidron, Jerusalam

11/01/2009 by Philip Turle

The possibility of a diplomatic solution was still being discussed on Sunday with Israel seeking US guarantees on an Egyptian proposal that would tackle arms smuggling into Gaza. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to China's Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, on the violence in Gaza.

China is sending an envoy to Egypt, Israel and the Palestinian territories in the next few days, its Foreign Ministry said.

On Sunday several Jewish signatories sent a letter to the Israeli government which called for "an immediate and permanent ceasefire". The letter was signed by politicians, university professors and rabbis and came after protests on Saturday in several world cities.

In France, protests were held in 80 cities. The sociologist Michel Wieviorka told RFI that the "range [of protesters] is very broad and so quite diverse and perhaps even contradictory". He said the majority of protesters appeared, to him, to be united in calling for a "durable and fair peace".

Further protests are planned in London, Prague, Brussels, Madrid and Berlin on Sunday. These are both in support of, or in protest at, the Israeli offensive.