Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large
Israeli soldiers prepare their tanks as they take positions on the northern border of the Gaza Strip.
MENAHEM KAHANA STF
Israeli soldiers prepare their tanks as they take positions on the northern border of the Gaza Strip.

Tanks mass on border as war looms

Israel's air force and navy said they pounded Hamas buildings and they are looking to change the rules of the game.

TEL AVIV // Israel's air force and navy said they pounded the Hamas-run interior ministry, the Islamic University and the seaport in the Gaza Strip yesterday, attacking the territory for a third consecutive day in a violent assault that has already claimed the lives of at least 325 Palestinians and wounded more than 1,550 others. The Jewish state is also preparing to launch a ground invasion, with Israeli tanks, cannons and infantry units deployed on the border of the tiny coastal enclave of 1.5 million Palestinians that is ruled by Hamas. Israel declared areas around Gaza a closed military zone, a move analysts said may mean a ground operation in the impoverished territory. Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, told parliament yesterday that "we have an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies" and added that "the blow will cause the terrorist group Hamas to stop its activities". A senior Israeli military official said yesterday that the operation was just beginning. Dan Harel, the deputy army chief of staff, was quoted by a popular Israeli news website as saying that Israel "is hitting not just terrorists and rocket-launchers, but the whole government of Hamas and all its arms". He added that "not one building belonging to Hamas will stand after this operation - we are looking to change the rules of the game." While Arabs across the Middle East and those living in Israel were enraged by Israel's assault, Jewish Israelis remained overwhelmingly supportive of their government's actions. A poll taken by Israel's Channel 10 TV on Sunday showed that 81 per cent of Israelis support the Gaza onslaught. In interviews, some Israelis said they backed their army's actions because it was time for Israel to retaliate for the rocket fire. Yuval Moskovich, a 32-year-old who lives in the central Israeli city of Kfar Saba, said: "There is a limit to our restraint. The army held back for a long time - but it's not possible that the residents of southern Israel will suffer for so long." Eran Silberbush, an engineer from Tel Aviv, said: "Violence can't be one-sided towards Israel. Hamas will be more afraid of us now." Israel began launching its strikes last Saturday, eight days after a troubled, six-month truce with Hamas expired, saying it wanted to halt the rocket fire at its southern communities from Gaza. The cabinet of Ehud Olmert, the prime minister, on Sunday approved the call-up of 6,700 reservists to take part in the attacks. Israel has so far struck rocket-launching pads, weapon manufacturing and storage facilities, warehouses, a mosque it claimed was used for "terrorist activities," a main security and prison complex of Hamas in Gaza City, a fuel tanker, a Hamas television station and smuggling tunnels, the military said. Israel's strikes yesterday appeared to target several important Hamas symbols in Gaza. They included the interior ministry, which Palestinians say was the first government building hit in the offensive, and a laboratory building at the Islamic University, which serves as a Hamas cultural symbol. In reprisal, Hamas and other Palestinian factions in Gaza have fired more than 150 rockets and mortars at southern Israeli communities in the past three days. One missile that landed yesterday on a construction site in Ashqelon, a city of about 120,000 people that is 17 kilometres north of Gaza, killed a 27-year-old Israeli Arab worker, the second Israeli to die from a rocket since the operation began Saturday. Israel says Hamas is increasingly using more sophisticated, longer-range missiles to reach deeper into its territory. They have the capability of targeting population centres some 40km away from the Gaza border. Hamas officials have remained defiant despite the attacks, and have accused the international community of not doing enough to stop the killings. A Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, told news agencies that Israel "is committing a holocaust as the whole world watches and isn't lifting a finger to stop it". Mr Barhoum added that Hamas may hit back with suicide attacks, which the group has not carried out in Israel since 2005. Of the Gazans who have died so far, at least 57 were civilians, a spokesman for the UN Palestinian refugee agency. Hamas has said that at least 180 of the dead were members of its security forces. Some prominent Israelis are warning that should Israel's operation be expanded, it may lose the public support it currently enjoys. Amos Oz, one of the best known Israeli novelists and a distinguished left-wing figure, said the "mass killing in Gaza" will not help Israel and may even benefit Hamas. "Israel, from its position of power now, should offer [Hamas] a truce with the mediation of the moderate Arab states and the Palestinian Authority," he told Israel Radio. vbekker@thenational.ae

Back to the top

More articles


Editor's Picks

 Iranian President Hassan Rouhani greets supporters after his arrival in Zahedan, the regional capital of Sistan and Baluchestan province on Tuesday, April 15, 2014. During Mr Rouhani's two-day visit, he will tour several other cities and hold meetings with local scholars and entrepreneurs. Maryam Rahmanian for The National

On the road with Hassan Rouhani

Iran's president is touring some of Iran's most underdeveloped provinces. Foreign correspondent Yeganeh Salehi is traveling with him.

 The Doha-based Youssef Al Qaradawi speaks to the crowd as he leads Friday prayers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in February, 2011. The outspoken pro-Muslim Brotherhood imam has been critical of the UAE’s policies toward Islamist groups, adding to friction between Qatar and other GCC states. Khalil Hamra / AP Photo

Brotherhood imam skips Doha sermon, but more needed for GCC to reconcile

That Youssef Al Qaradawi did not speak raises hopes that the spat involving Qatar and the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain might be slowly moving towards a resolution.

 Twitter photo of  Abdel Fattah El Sisi on the campaign trail on March 30. Photo courtesy-Twitter/@SisiCampaign

El Sisi rides a bicycle, kicks off social media storm

The photos and video created a huge buzz across social media networks, possibly a marker of a new era for Egypt.

 An Afghan election commission worker carries a ballot box at a vote counting centre in Jalalabad on April 6. A roadside bomb hit a truck carrying full ballot boxes in northern Afghanistan, killing three people a day after the country voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai. Eight boxes of votes were destroyed in the blast, which came as the three leading candidates voiced concerns about possible fraud. Noorullah Shirzada / AFP Photo

Two pressing questions for Afghanistan’s future president

Once in office, the next Afghan president must move fast to address important questions that will decide the immediate future of the country.

 Friday is UN Mine Awareness Day and Omer Hassan, who does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan, is doing all he can to teach people about the dangers posed by landmines. Louise Redvers for The National

A landmine nearly ended Omer’s life but he now works to end the threat of mines in Iraq

Omer Hassan does demining work in Iraqi Kurdistan and only has to show people his mangled leg to underscore the danger of mines. With the world marking UN Mine Awareness Day on Friday, his work is as important as ever as Iraq is one of the most mine-affected countries in the world.

 Supporters of Turkey's ruling AKP cheer as they follow the election's results in front of the party's headquarters in Ankara on March 30. Adem Altan/ AFP Photo

Erdogan critic fears retaliation if he returns to Turkey

Emre Uslu is a staunch critic of Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Now, with a mass crackdown on opposition expected, he is unsure when he can return home.

Events

To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National