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Gaza death toll tops 300 as Israel vows to fight to bitter end
Israel stepped up its bombing campaign in Gaza today, hitting an interior ministry building, a major university and a house next to the home of the former Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh.
Witnesses in Gaza City reported six separate air strikes overnight at the Islamic University, the leading university in the Gaza Strip which has links to the Islamist movement Hamas. Israeli jets hit a guest house used by the Hamas government. All Hamas leaders, including Haniyeh, have left their homes and gone into hiding.
The Israeli military said it struck dozens more targets including buildings used for storing and manufacturing weapons, and that naval vessels had also bombarded targets from the sea.
Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, said the military was fighting a "war to the bitter end" against Hamas.
Earlier today the Israeli army declared areas around Gaza a "closed military zone", citing the risk from Palestinian rocket fire, and ordering journalists observing the build-up of armoured forces to leave. The move comes after the Israeli military deployed tanks close to the border, and could be another sign that a major ground invasion is being considered.
Palestinian officials said the death toll since the Israeli bombing began on Saturday had risen to at least 314, with as many as 1,400 others injured. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said at least 57 of the dead were civilians. It based the figure, which an UNRWA spokesman called "conservative", on visits by agency officials to hospitals and medical centres.
Monday, December 29, 2008 : Death toll climbs as Israel continues aerial bombardment of Gaza Strip for third consecutive day.
Israel's military is in an "all-out war" with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Ehud Barak, the defence minister, says.
"We have nothing against Gaza residents, but we are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies," Barak said on Monday.
Israel says the creation of a buffer zone along the border will help protect it from rocket attacks.
Tanks and troops have been massed in the area since the attacks, referred to by the Israeli military as Operation Cast Lead, was launched on Saturday.Read More
Monday, December 29, 2008 : Israel conducted a third day of intense bombing against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip Monday. More than 300 Palestinians have been killed in the air raids. Since the attacks began Saturday, Israel says it has limited Hamas' ability to launch rocket attacks into southern Israel. Several hundred Israeli reservists have been called up.
As Israel pursues its massive onslaught against the cordoned off Gaza Strip, children are paying the heavy price losing their lives or suffering psychological scars.
"My children are completely terrified," Faysal Shawa, a construction engineer, told The Independent on Monday, December 29.
"We still don't dare go outside. Nowhere feels safe."
Five girls from the same family, including a 14 month-old toddler, were slain overnight when Israeli warplanes pounded a mosque near their home in the northern town of Jabaliya.
Three boys were also killed in a separate Israeli strike on the southern city of Rafah.
The fatalities took to 27 the number of children killed in the Israeli onslaught, unleashed Saturday.
More than 310 people have been killed and 1,400 wounded in the Israeli offensive.
Israeli jets bombed targets across Gaza for the third consecutive day.
"Gaza is so small that when the Israelis bomb us it feels like they are bombing our own houses," said Shawa, a father of three.
Israel remains adamant to heed international calls to halt its military operation against the densely-populated strip, home to 1.6 million
"We are engaged in an all-out war against Hamas and its proxies," Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Monday.
"This operation will expand and deepen as much as needed…We went to war to deal a heavy blow to Hamas, to change the situation in the south."
The Israeli army declared the border areas with the Gaza Strip a closed military zone.
Israeli tanks have been massing on the border of Gaza in preparation for a ground operation.
Shawa, the construction engineer, said the 1.6 million Palestinians of Gaza are used to unabated Israeli assaults.
"But this time the bombings are absolutely terrifying," he noted.
"What makes this attack worse is that for the past 18 months we have been living with little electricity, water and food."