GeriGündem Hundreds killed in bloodiest Israeli attack on Gaza in decades
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Hundreds killed in bloodiest Israeli attack on Gaza in decades

Israeli warplanes and combat helicopters pounded the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip on Saturday, killing hundreds of people in the bloodiest day for Palestinians in more than 20 years. (UPDATED)

Israeli air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip killed at least 195 Palestinians, health officials in Gaza said. Another 300 people were wounded, some 120 of them seriously in the attacks.     

An Israeli man died as Hamas swiftly responded to the air raids by firing rockets into the Jewish state.

The deadly attacks came after days of escalating violence around the besieged coastal strip that the Islamist Hamas movement has run since June 2007, with militants firing rockets and Israel vowing a fiery response.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel's military operation in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip will take time and will be widened and expanded if necessary.

"It won't be easy and it won't be short," Barak told reporters. "There is a time for calm and a time for fighting, and now the time has come to fight," he was quoted by Reuters as saying.

A six-month truce expired last week in Gaza. Since then, at least six militants have been killed by Israeli air strikes and dozens of rockets and mortar shells from Gaza have slammed into Israel, damaging homes and causing panic.


Olmert warned Islamist group Hamas on Thursday to stop firing rockets or pay a heavy price. "I will not hesitate to use Israel's might to strike Hamas and (Islamic) Jihad," he told Al Arabiya television, an Arab broadcaster widely watched in Gaza.


The bombardment is "only just beginning," military spokesman Avi Benayahu told army radio.


"Our aviation intervened massively on Saturday against Hamas infrastructure in the Gaza Strip to stop the terrorist attacks of the past several weeks against Israeli civilian installations," an Israeli army spokesman told AFP. 


"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," he said. "Our operations will continue and will be expanded if necessary," he added.


Thick black smoke billowed over Gaza city, where the port and security installations of the Islamist Hamas group were badly damaged.

Television footage showed dead bodies scattered on the ground and wounded and dead being carried away by distraught rescuers. There was widespread damage to buildings.


Among the dead was the Gaza police chief, Maj. Gen. Tawfiq Jaber, Hamas radio reported.


A five-day Israeli offensive in March killed more than 120 people, but Saturday's death toll would be the highest for Palestinians since their 1980s uprising.



Hamas said it had fired rockets into Israel on Saturday in retaliation for a wave of massive air strikes that killed at least 195 people in its Gaza Strip stronghold.


A rocket fired by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip killed one person in southern Israel on Saturday, medics said.


Another two people in the Israeli town of Netivot were moderately wounded, the Magen David Adom ambulance service said.


The Israeli army said three rockets and two mortars had fallen within Israel. Israeli rescue services said one woman was moderately to seriously wounded when a rocket fell on a house in the southern town of Netivot.

Hamas said earlier Saturday it would seek revenge, including launching new rocket attacks on Israel and sending suicide bombers to Israel.


"Hamas will continue the resistance until the last drop of blood," Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum was quoted by AP as speaking on a Gaza radio station.



Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said on Saturday that he was in "urgent contact" with numerous countries over the deadly Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.


"We have carried out urgent contacts with numerous Arab countries and other nations to stop the cowardly aggressions and massacres in the Gaza Strip," Abbas told AFP from Saudi Arabia which he is currently visiting. 


Arab foreign ministers will meet in Cairo on Sunday to take a common position on Israeli raids, the Arab League said on Saturday.


Libya, the only Arab country on the U.N. Security Council, will seek an urgent meeting of the council, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters, and Syria called for an emergency Arab summit to discuss the crisis.


A separate Arab League statement condemned the Israeli attacks and said Jordan and Egypt wanted the foreign ministers to "call for an end to the massacres which Israel is committing against the Palestinian people in Gaza".






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