Posts Tagged ‘war crimes in Gaza’

Israeli Leaders Sued in Belgium for War Crimes

June 25, 2010

Baltimore Jewish Times, June 25, 2010

JTA Wire Service

A complaint was filed in Belgian court against 14 Israeli leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak were among those charged with war crimes committed during the Gaza war in the winter of 2008-09, the French daily Le Monde reported. Former Gen. Matan Vilnai and other Israeli army leaders, politicians and intelligence officials also were included on the list.

Two lawyers representing 13 family members of victims of an Israeli army bombing of a mosque near the Jabaliya refugee camp during the war said they filed their complaints Wednesday in Brussels, according to reports.

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Jimmy Carter: Gaza must be rebuilt now

December 19, 2009
We can wait no longer to restart the peace process. The human suffering demands urgent relief

Jimmy Carter, The Guardian/UK, Dec 19, 2009

It is  generally recognised that the Middle East peace process is in the doldrums, almost moribund. Israeli settlement expansion within Palestine continues, and PLO leaders refuse to join in renewed peace talks without a settlement freeze, knowing that no Arab or Islamic nation will accept any comprehensive agreement while Israel retains control of East Jerusalem.

US objections have impeded Egyptian efforts to resolve differences between Hamas and Fatah that could lead to 2010 elections. With this stalemate, PLO leaders have decided that President Mahmoud Abbas will continue in power until elections can be held – a decision condemned by many Palestinians.

Even though Syria and Israel under the Olmert government had almost reached an agreement with Turkey’s help, the current prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, rejects Turkey as a mediator on the Golan Heights. No apparent alternative is in the offing.

The UN general assembly approved a report issued by its human rights council that called on Israel and the Palestinians to investigate charges of war crimes during the recent Gaza war, but positive responses seem unlikely.

In summary: UN resolutions, Geneva conventions, previous agreements between Israelis and Palestinians, the Arab peace initiative, and official policies of the US and other nations are all being ignored. In the meantime, the demolition of Arab houses, expansion of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and Palestinian recalcitrance threaten any real prospect for peace.

Of more immediate concern, those under siege in Gaza face another winter of intense personal suffering. I visited Gaza after the devastating January war and observed homeless people huddling in makeshift tents, under plastic sheets, or in caves dug into the debris of their former homes. Despite offers by Palestinian leaders and international agencies to guarantee no use of imported materials for even defensive military purposes, cement, lumber, and panes of glass are not being permitted to pass entry points into Gaza. The US and other nations have accepted this abhorrent situation without forceful corrective action.

I have discussed ways to assist the citizens of Gaza with a number of Arab and European leaders and their common response is that the Israeli blockade makes any assistance impossible. Donors point out that they have provided enormous aid funds to build schools, hospitals and factories, only to see them destroyed in a few hours by precision bombs and missiles. Without international guarantees, why risk similar losses in the future?

It is time to face the fact that, for the past 30 years, no one nation has been able or willing to break the impasse and induce the disputing parties to comply with international law. We cannot wait any longer. Israel has long argued that it cannot negotiate with terrorists, yet has had an entire year without terrorism and still could not negotiate. President Obama has promised active involvement of the US government, but no formal peace talks have begun and no comprehensive framework for peace has been proposed. Individually and collectively, the world powers must act.

One recent glimmer of life has been the 8 December decision of EU foreign ministers to restate the long-standing basic requirements for peace commonly accepted within the international community, including that Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries will prevail unless modified by a negotiated agreement with the Palestinians. A week later the new EU foreign policy chief, Baroness Catherine Ashton, reiterated this statement in even stronger terms and called for the international Quartet to be “reinvigorated”. This is a promising prospect.

President Obama was right to insist on a two-state solution and a complete settlement freeze as the basis for negotiations. Since Israel has rejected the freeze and the Palestinians won’t negotiate without it, a logical step is for all Quartet members (the US, EU, Russia and UN) to support the Obama proposal by declaring any further expansion of settlements illegal and refusing to veto UN security council decisions to condemn such settlements. This might restrain Israel and also bring Palestinians to the negotiating table.

At the same time, the Quartet should join with Turkey and invite Syria and Israel to negotiate a solution to the Golan Heights dispute.

Without ascribing blame to any of the disputing parties, the Quartet also should begin rebuilding Gaza by organising relief efforts under the supervision of an active special envoy, overseeing a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, and mediating an opening of the crossings. The cries of homeless and freezing people demand immediate relief.

This is a time for bold action, and the season for forgiveness, reconciliation and peace.

‘The UK is not a banana republic’

December 18, 2009
By Daud Abdullah, Al Jazeera, Dec 18, 2009

More than half of the 1,400 Gazans killed during Operation Cast Lead were civilians  [GALLO/GETTY]

David Miliband, the UK’s foreign secretary, has apologised to his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Lieberman, after the humiliation and embarrassment caused by the issuing of a warrant for the arrest of Tzipi Livni, the former Israeli foreign minister.The arrest warrant was issued over Livni’s suspected war crimes role during Israel’s war on Gaza, but was later withdrawn after she cancelled her visit to London.

Miliband also promised to begin work immediately to change UK laws to ensure that no such warrants would be issued for Israeli officials in the future. As an added sweetener to the act of contrition, Gordon Brown, the British prime minister, also personally called Livni to assure her she would always be welcomed to visit the UK.

All of this is easier said than done. Already there is a huge outcry in Britain over the mere thought of changing UK laws or reneging on treaty obligations simply to protect Israeli officials involved in the serial breach of international law.

In their deluded fantasy the Israelis claim that the judicial order in London will seriously impair bi-lateral relations between London and Tel Aviv, jeopardise the Middle East peace process and undermine Britain’s image in the region.

Historic Middle East role

Human rights groups have accused Livni of crimes against humanity

What a gross distortion. Britain’s historic relationship and role in the Middle East is unquestioned. Even though it has on many occasions acted against the national interests of the people of the region and the Palestinians in particular, it would be wishful thinking to suggest that it could be excluded from future negotiations.Instead of being eternally grateful to Britain for creating their state in Palestine, Israeli officials are today attempting to bite the very hand that fed them.

To claim that Britain is in trouble or would be the loser because of the court order is disingenuous. Actually, the only losers are those who planned, commissioned and executed the war crimes committed in the Gaza Strip.

They are the ones in hot water, so to speak, and the greatest service Brown could make on behalf of universal jurisdiction is to leave them to stew in it.

These sentiments were expressed by his former cabinet colleague Clare Short, a member of the Labour Party and an independent MP, while addressing a conference organised by the Palestinian Return Centre, in London.

A former minister for international development, Short said the crimes committed in Gaza during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year marked a defining moment in the conflict. She criticised how Israel has undermined the international system by its cavalier breach of conventions and established norms in an apparent attempt to tell the world that there are special laws for certain states and that it is a state above the law.

She derided the hypocrisy of those who seek to prosecute Omar al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, while at the same time they refuse and obstruct efforts to investigated and prosecute Israeli criminals.

Violations of international law

The groveling apology to Israel, after the British ambassador was summoned for a reprimand by the Israeli foreign ministry, is the type of reaction expected from a banana republic, not from Great Britain.

Should the foreign secretary entertain Lieberman, a Jewish settler himself and a resident of Nokdim, a West Bank settlement considered illegal under international law? What a contradiction.

The official policy of the UK government is that all settlements in the lands occupied in 1967 are illegal and violate UN Security Council resolutions and the Fourth Geneva Convention.

It is poignant to point out that Livni’s father and mother were regarded as “terrorists” by the British Mandate authorities in Palestine in the 1940s and were both captured and locked up. Under Article 146 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Britain still has an obligation to “to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts”.

What is at stake in this imbroglio is the independence of the British judiciary, an institution that for hundreds of years has been a source of national pride and emulated by many nations.

It is for this reason there is anger and outrage over the government’s declared intent to succumb to Israel. The implication, of course, is the fear that in future Britain would not be able to lay any claim to be a bastion and guardian of international law. The rhetoric of ‘rule of law’ will run hollow if there was any change of the law for no other reason except to protect war criminals who happen to be members of the club.

Compelling evidence

Palestinians run for cover after an Israeli air raid struck a UN school in Gaza [AFP]

It must be recalled that these laws came into being because of the Nazi war crimes and crimes against humanity. Only last month there was great satisfaction and hubris when John Demjanjuk was brought before a German court more than 60 years after allegedly committing his crimes.The message was clear: that war crimes and crimes against humanity are so repugnant that they must not go unpunished.

The case against the Israeli minister and her accomplices was made not by Richard Goldstone only.

A number of independent reports including the report of Independent Fact-Finding Committee on Gaza to the Arab League, the Martin Commission report to the UN secretary-general on attacks on UN premises, and reports by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, Physicians for Human Rights and the National Lawyers Guild, all support the conclusion that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by the Israeli military in its Operation Cast Lead.

It was because of this compelling evidence that a British judge issued the warrant for Livni’s arrest. To present the matter as if it were a malicious witch hunt is simply beside the point. Surely it would be a travesty of justice if what occurred in Gaza was not investigated and prosecuted.

Peace in the region has remained elusive precisely because of this failure to be even-handed in the application of international law, always at the expense of Palestinian rights.

If Palestinians do not have recourse to the law, one wonders what other options are left to them when their legitimate grievances are ignored.

Daud Abdullah is the director of the Middle East Monitor, an independent media research institution founded in the United Kingdom to foster a fair and accurate coverage in the Western media of Middle Eastern issues and in particular the Palestine Question.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

America, Israel’s Lackey

November 12, 2009
by Paul Craig Roberts,,  November 12, 2009

It did not take the Israel Lobby long to make mincemeat out of the Obama administration’s “no new settlements” position.  Israeli prime minister Netanyahu is bragging about Israel’s latest victory over the US government as Israel continues to build illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

In May President Obama read the Israelis the riot act, telling the Israeli government that he was serious about ending the Israeli conflict with the Palestinians and that a lasting peace agreement required the Israeli government to abandon all construction of new settlements in the occupied West Bank.

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Israel’s Crimes, America’s Silence

June 21, 2009

By John Dugard | The Nation, June 21, 2009

President Obama’s recent speech to the Muslim World failed to address allegations that Israel committed war crimes in Gaza. Palestinians and people throughout the region were shocked at the firepower Israel brought to bear against Gaza’s civilians and do not want Palestinians’ ongoing misery to be further ignored. Many were surely waiting to hear from President Obama that the way to peace does not lie through the devastation of civilian life and infrastructure in Gaza.

To date, too little mention has been made of investigations that show there is sufficient evidence to bring charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity against Israel’s political and military leadership for their actions in Gaza. Recently, two comprehensive independent reports have been published on Gaza, and earlier this month a mission mandated by the UN Human Rights Council, and chaired by South African Richard Goldstone, visited Gaza to conduct a further investigation into Israel’s offensive.

On May 4 the United Nations published the findings of an investigation into attacks carried out by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on UN premises in Gaza. Led by Ian Martin, formerly head of Amnesty International, this investigation found Israel responsible for wrongfully killing and injuring Palestinians on UN premises and destroying property amounting to over $10 million in value. Although this investigation did not address the question of individual criminal responsibility, it is clear that the identified wrongful acts by Israel constituted serious war crimes.

On May 7 the Arab League published the 254-page report of an Independent Fact Finding Committee (IFFC) it had established to examine the legal implications of Israel’s Gaza offensive. This committee, comprising six experts in international law, criminal law and forensic medicine from non-Arab countries, visited Gaza in February. We concluded that the IDF had committed serious war crimes and crimes against humanity.

As the committee`s chairman, I spent five days in Gaza along with the other experts. Our views were deeply influenced by interviews we conducted with victims and by the evidence of destruction of property. We were particularly disturbed by the accounts of cold-blooded killings of civilians committed by some members of the IDF and the Israeli military’s use of white phosphorus in densely populated areas. The devastation was appalling and raised profound doubts in my mind as to the veracity of Israeli officials who claimed this was not a war against the Palestinian people.

The IFFC found that the IDF, in killing some 1,400 Palestinians (at least 850 of whom were civilians), wounding over 5,000 and destroying over 3,000 homes and other buildings, had failed to discriminate between civilian and military targets, terrorized civilians, destroyed property in a wanton manner not justified by military necessity and attacked hospitals and ambulances. It also found that the systematic and widespread killing, injuring and terrorizing of the civilian population of Gaza constituted a crime against humanity.

The IFFC investigated the question whether the IDF was responsible for committing the ‘crime of crimes’ — genocide. Here we concluded that although the evidence pointed in this direction, Israel lacked the intention to destroy the people of Gaza, which must be proved for the crime of genocide. Instead, the IFFC found that the purpose of the offensive was collective punishment aimed at reducing the population to a state of submission. However, the IFFC did not discount the possibility that individual soldiers had acted with the required genocidal intent.

Israel’s argument that it acted in self-defense was rejected, inter alia, on the basis of evidence that Israel’s action was premeditated and not an immediate response to rockets fired by militants and was, moreover, disproportionate. The IFFC found that the IDF’s own internal investigation into allegations of irregularities, which exonerated the IDF, was unconvincing because it was not conducted by an independent body and failed to consider Palestinian evidence.

The IFFC also examined the actions of Palestinian militants who fired rockets indiscriminately into southern Israel. We concluded that these actions constituted war crimes and that those responsible committed the war crimes of indiscriminate attacks on civilians and the killing, wounding and terrorization of civilians.

The past twenty years have brought important developments in international law in respect to accountability for international crimes. Yet Israel has possibly secured impunity for itself by failing to become a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. Nevertheless, its actions may still be judged by the court of public opinion.

A bold Obama speech on Gaza would have ensured that the public is on notice that it’s not business as usual in Washington. Even American allies, such as Israel, should have to answer evidence of serious international crimes. In this way, some measure of accountability may be achieved. With an active American push, a new view of the United States may begin to take shape after eight years of disregard for international and domestic law.

About John Dugard
John Dugard is a professor of law, a former UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the chairman of the Independent Fact Finding Committee on Gaza. more…

Is Israel’s Gaza War a New War Crime?

January 19, 2009

The use of the internationally banned substance white phosphorus in highly densely populated areas of the Gaza Strip gives new meaning to the phrase “white power.” White western supremacy enforced by latest advanced weaponry.

And not only white phosphorus, but also the latest in bunker buster bombs, unmanned drones, not to mention U.S.-made F-16 fighter jets, Apache helicopters, etc.

Journalists, human rights officials, international aid workers, and many doctors and field medics, including high officials of the Red Cross and the UN, have accused the Israelis of using white phosphorus illegally against civilian populations, as well as other advanced weaponry. They have repeatedly witnessed burns on civilians, including women and children, consistent with the use of white phosphorous.

Meanwhile, Richard Falk, internationally respected legal scholar, and Special Reporter for the UN on Human Rights in Occupied Palestine, stated in a recent interview that Israel has potentially committed a new kind of war crime, by making it impossible for endangered civilians to flee a war zone.

Israel “has basically locked the population into this war zone and as far as I know, that hasn’t really happened before in such a systematic way and it probably should be considered a new kind of war crime,” said Falk.

On Jan. 15, Israeli forces bombed several hospitals and a UN compound. As many as 500 people were sheltering in the Al-Quds Hospital in the city’s southwestern Tal Al-Hawa district when it was bombed multiple times by Israel and set on fire.

A hospital spokesman said the fire was sparked by phosphorus shells. “We have been able to control the fire in the hospital,” the spokesman told reporters, “but not in the administrative building. We hope that the flames don’t spread again to the wings of the hospital.”

Sharon Lock is an independent journalist and human rights activist from Australia. For the past two weeks, Lock has been riding in a Red Crescent ambulance in Gaza, documenting attacks on medics and ambulances, as they try to reach hundreds of victims of the bombings, people cut down in the streets or caught under the rubble of hundreds of destroyed buildings.

According to Lock, who was in Al-Quds Hospital when it was struck multiple times, 80 percent of the calls for help have gone unanswered, because Israeli forces “attack the medics” when they try to retrieve the wounded and the dead, “even after they have been given permission to move in.”

In an interview on Jan. 16, Lock described the attack on Al-Quds Hospital, in a densely populated part of Gaza City, one of three medical centers bombed by Israel in a single day.

“During the night we had quite a lot of attacks, about 50 strikes people counted in our immediate area,” she told me, “and about 4 or 5 had actually hit our building. The two that did involve major damage happened in the morning …

“One was a rocket that went through the wall of the hospital, into the pharmacy building, and we retrieved the rocket shell. The other went through the roof of the social center, which was a part of the hospital complex, and that started the fire on the roof which the medics were fighting.

“We did manage to put it out eventually but it was quite difficult. And then, actually, we were only in the middle of getting the last bits of the fire out, when we heard shouting from upstairs and went up to the main steps and I saw my medical colleague covered in blood.

“He said that he’d just picked up a little girl who was part of a family fleeing their house, and who had come to the hospital to take shelter. He heard screaming and had gone out and saw she had been shot by a sniper, and had gunshot wounds to her face and also to her abdomen and so he swept her off and brought her in for surgery. ”

Later the central building at Al-Quds was bombed and also set ablaze. Lock and other medical staff had to walk hundreds of Palestinians, who had fled to the hospital for safety, through the darkened streets to another location in front of Israeli snipers who had taken positions on the roofs of various building near the hospital.

Overflowing Morgues

Caoimhe Butterly is an Irish human rights activist working in Gaza City as a volunteer with ambulance services and as co-coordinator for the Free Gaza Movement. Butterly describes in troubling detail what life was like at Shifa Hospital, another key medical center attacked by Israel with U.S.-made weaponry.

“The morgues of Gaza’s hospitals are overflowing. The bodies in their blood-soaked white shrouds cover the entire floor space of the Shifa Hospital’s morgue. Some are intact, most horribly deformed, limbs twisted into unnatural positions, chest cavities exposed, heads blown off, skulls crushed in.

“Family members wait outside to identify and claim a brother, husband, father, mother, wife, child. Many of those who wait their turn have lost numerous family members and loved ones. … Blood is everywhere. Hospital orderlies hose down the floors of operating rooms, bloodied bandages lie discarded in corners, and the injured continue to pour in – bodies lacerated by shrapnel, burns, bullet wounds. Medical workers, exhausted and under siege, work day and night and each life saved is seen as a victory over the predominance of death.”

On the same day, Israeli shells rained down on a UN compound in Gaza City, setting fire to its warehouses and reducing to ashes tons of sorely needed food and medical aid. Some 700 Palestinians had fled to the UN complex at the time of the bombings and a number of them were wounded.

John Ging, director of United Nations Relief and Works Agency in the Gaza Strip, accused the Israelis of bombing the UN Food Complex with phosphorus shells.”They are phosphorus fires so they are extremely difficult to put out because, if you put water on, it will just generate toxic fumes and do nothing to stop the burning,” he said.

On Jan. 17, two Palestinian young boys, brothers aged five and seven, were killed when Israeli tank fire hit a UN school in Gaza. Twenty-five other Gazans were wounded in the shelling at the school run by the UN relief agency in Beit Lahiya, The school was the third UN shelter to be hit by Israeli fire in its 22-day war on the tiny Gaza strip.

Christopher Gunness, a spokesman for the UN-run school, said several tank rounds hit the school. The third floor of the school took a direct hit after a short pause, killing the pair of brothers and injuring another 14 people.

Gunness said about 1,600 civilians had sought refuge from the fighting inside the building when it was hit. And he made it clear that Israel knew what it was hitting.

“The Israeli army knew exactly our GPS coordinates and they would have known that hundreds of people had taken shelter there,” he told Arab-run news services. “When you have a direct hit into the third floor of a UN school, there has to be an investigation to see if a war crime has been committed.”

John Ging added “People today are alleging war crimes here in Gaza. Let’s have it properly accounted for. Let’s have the legal process which will establish exactly what has happened here. It is another failure for our humanity and it is exposing the impotence of our [the international community’s] inability to protect civilians in conflict.”

The statistics through the 20th day of the war – over 1,100 Palestinians dead, of which 300 are children, and 5,400 more wounded, some critically. So far the Israeli strikes have claimed over 15 mosques, many schools, at least three hospitals, several UN facilities, more than six field medics, and hundreds of private homes and civilian apartment buildings.

Tutu’s Concern

In 2006, Nobel Laureate Bishop Desmond Tutu, one of the leaders of the South African anti-apartheid movement, was prevented from entering Israel and the Gaza Strip to investigate another potential massacre of innocent Palestinian civilians.

It took him two years to finally get in. Tutu has been quoted many times in regards to the similarities between the former apartheid system in South Africa and the current treatment of occupied Palestinians.

Tutu wrote in 2003, “Yesterday’s South African township dwellers can tell you about today’s life in the Occupied Territories. To travel only blocks in his own homeland, a (Palestinian) grandfather waits on the whim of a teenage soldier.

Dennis Bernstein is an award-winning investigative reporter and public radio producer. He is co-host and executive producer of the daily radio news magazine, Flashpoints, on Pacifica Radio, and a contributing editor to the Pacific News Service.

UN human rights chief accuses Israel of war crimes

January 10, 2009

Official calls for investigation into Zeitoun shelling that killed up to 30 in one house as Israelis dismiss ‘unworkable’ ceasefire

The United Nations‘ most senior human rights official said last night that the Israeli military may have committed war crimes in Gaza. The warning came as Israeli troops pressed on with the deadly offensive in defiance of a UN security council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Navi Pillay, the UN high commissioner for human rights, has called for “credible, independent and transparent” investigations into possible violations of humanitarian law, and singled out an incident this week in Zeitoun, south-east of Gaza City, where up to 30 Palestinians in one house were killed by Israeli shelling.

Pillay, a former international criminal court judge from South Africa, told the BBC the incident “appears to have all the elements of war crimes”.

The accusation came as Israel kept up its two-week-old air and ground offensive in Gaza and dismissed as “unworkable” the UN security council resolution which had called for “an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire”.

Protests against the offensive were held across the world yesterday just as diplomacy to halt the conflict appeared to falter.

With the Palestinian casualty toll rising to around 800 dead, including 265 children, and more than 3,000 injured, fresh evidence emerged yesterday of the killings in Zeitoun. It was “one of the gravest incidents” since Israel’s offensive began two weeks ago, the UN office for the co-ordination of humanitarian affairs said yesterday.

“There is an international obligation on the part of soldiers in their position to protect civilians, not to kill civilians indiscriminately in the first place, and when they do, to make sure that they help the wounded,” Pillay told Reuters. “In this particular case these children were helpless and the soldiers were close by,” she added.

An Israeli military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, said the incident was still being examined. “We don’t warn people to go to other buildings, this is not something we do,” she said. “We don’t know this case, we don’t know that we attacked it.”

Despite the intense bombardment, militants in Gaza fired at least 30 rockets into southern Israel yesterday. Sami Abu Zuhri, a Hamas spokesman, told al-Jazeera TV: “This resolution doesn’t mean that the war is over. We call on Palestinian fighters to mobilise and be ready to face the offensive, and we urge the Arab masses to carry on with their angry protests.”

Israeli officials said they could not be expected to halt their military operation while the rockets continued and said they first wanted an end to the rocket fire and a “mechanism” to prevent Hamas rearming in future.

“The whole idea that Israel will unilaterally stop protecting our people when Hamas is sending rockets into our cities to kill our people is not a reasonable request of Israel,” said Mark Regev, spokesman for prime minister Ehud Olmert. Israel wanted security for its people in southern Israel, he said, and dismissed suggestions his military might seek to topple Hamas, saying they were “not in the regime-change business”.

Israeli public opinion still strongly favours the war. One poll of Jewish Israelis yesterday, by the War and Peace Index, said 90% of the population supported continuing the operation until Israel achieved all its goals.

Olmert held a meeting of his security cabinet, and on the agenda was discussion about whether to intensify the offensive by launching a fresh stage of attacks in which Israeli troops would invade the major urban areas of Gaza as more reservists were called up. There was no word on the outcome.

So far 13 Israelis have been killed in this conflict, of whom three were civilians.

Another 23 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military yesterday. Seven from one family, including an infant, died when Israeli jets bombed a five-storey building in Beit Lahiya, in northern Gaza. There was heavy aerial bombing and artillery fire across the territory.

More than 20,000 Gazans have fled their homes in the north of the strip and thousands more in the south. In some cases Israeli troops have told them to leave, or dropped leaflets warning them to evacuate their homes. Some are even dividing their families between different addresses for fear of losing them all in a single air strike.

“Many people are leaving their homes and moving to the centre of the cities,” said Abdel Karim Ashour, 53, who works with a local aid agency, the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee. He, his wife and their four children fled their house on the coastal road in northern Gaza on the third day of the conflict. He sent the four children to stay with his brother while he and his wife are staying at a friend’s house. “We were in an area of heavy shelling, so we left and I divided the family to try to reduce the victims if we face any trouble. We try and keep in touch by telephone but there are problems with the network,” he said. “We’re just hoping for a ceasefire. If the fighting goes on there will be more victims.”

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