At least 57 killed since Wednesday in Gaza

“57 people have died since clashes between Israel and extremists affiliated with Gaza’s ruling Hamas movement spiked Wednesday. At least 24 were civilians”, according to a report by the Associated Press. Dozens — probably running into the hundreds — have been wounded.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, in Ramallah (who is at logger-heads with Hamas), has called for the UN Security Council to act on this escalation. On Friday, a statement was issued by his office in his name, calling on Israel to stop its strikes on Gaza, and calling on Palestinians to stop giving Israel a pretext to strike.

Hamas (whether you regard it as “extremist” — a value-laden word that should usually not included in carefully-edited news reports — or not) is not the only movement involved in the fighting, of course. The continuous firing of “projectiles” from Gaza into Israel is incomprehensible, however — and it, too, is a war crime.

One Hamas spokesman explained recently that the shooting of Qassams is to try to achieve a balance of fear.

Another possibility is that the Palestinian firing is aimed at bringing the situation to a head.

Rockets (at least 36 so far) are raining down on the Western Negev, and a house and another building were hit in the coastal city of Ashkelon, causing injuries to two people there, Haaretz reported early Saturday afternoon. Minutes later, the Jerusalem Post reported that three people were injured in Ashkelon, two of them children.

AP said that a year-old child’s death, just before midnight, might have been due to one of the Palestinian “projectiles” falling short of its target and landing instead in Gaza.

AFP reported Saturday that 32 people were killed in northern Gaza alone overnight Friday to Saturday, and at least 75 injured. “The urban battlefields were littered with debris as frightened residents hid inside their homes and imams read out Koranic verses over loudspeakers from inside mosques, witnesses said”.The AP report continued: “The Israeli military, which sent troops, tanks and aircraft to target Gaza rocket squads, said it only attacks rocket-launching operations, but said militants sometimes operate within civilian areas. On Saturday, it said troops identified 15 hits in its operations against rocket squads and militants laying explosive devices against Israeli targets. Fierce fighting erupted Saturday near the northern town of Jebaliya, pitting Israeli troops backed by tanks and attack aircraft against Palestinian militants launching crude rockets and mortars. Among those killed were at least nine militants, but also at least eight civilians, including a 17-year-old girl and her 16-year-old brother, a 45-year-old man and his 20-year-old son and two sisters thought to be in their early 20s. The sisters and another civilian were killed by tank shells that struck two houses in separate attacks, Palestinian officials said. Rescue teams evacuated a 7-month-old boy from one of the houses, unharmed. The Israeli military said it would look into reports of tank shells hitting houses. Tareq Dardouna, a resident of the Jebaliya area, told The Associated Press that a relative was killed outside his home in the crossfire that began raging at 3 a.m. ‘His body is still on the ground’, Dardouna said in a phone interview from his home, where he was tending to four wounded people. Ambulances tried to come, but they came under fire. … We are in a real war’. The Israeli military said five soldiers were wounded in the clashes”… This AP report is posted here.

The AFP report said that “The chief of Israel’s left-wing Meretz party, Yossi Beilin, said Hamas had offered a truce around Gaza over the past two weeks but the overtures had been rejected by the Israeli leadership, which brands the movement a terror group. The latest deaths brought to 6,222 the total number of people killed in Israeli-Palestinian violence since 2000, most of them Palestinians, according to an AFP count. At least 261 people have been killed, mostly Gaza militants, since Israel and the Palestinians relaunched formal peace talks at a US conference in November, according to an AFP count”. This AFP report is posted here.

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