Two hundred Palestinians were killed and 750 others wounded on Saturday in a series of rapid and intensive Israeli air strikes in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, Palestinian officials said.
Bodies of Palestinian Hamas policemen are scattered on the ground following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on December 27, 2008. About 200 Palestinians were killed and hundreds wounded in a series of simultaneous Israeli air strikes in Gaza Strip. (Xinhua photo]
"The number of martyrs reached 200 and the wounded people are 750, including a number of civilian women and children," said Mu' awia Hassanien, chief of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian health ministry.
Israel launched air strikes against the Gaza Strip from 11:30AM local time (0930 GMT), hitting more than 30 targets, most of them security compounds run by the Islamic Hamas movement.
"It was like an earthquake. Within a few minutes hundreds were killed and injured and dozens of buildings and cars were completely destroyed," said Gaza storekeeper Ahmed Ghannam.
Most of the victims were members of Hamas security forces, including its police chief Tawfiq Jaber, chief of Hamas' Security and Protection Service Ismail al-Jabary and Central Gaza Strip governor Abu Ahmad Ashour.
The bodies of the killed were piled in the al-Shifa hospital's corridors because the morgue could not contain the large number of corpses.
According to Hassanien, the number of the dead is the highest ever to be recorded in a single day since the 1967 six-day war in which Israel occupied the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Egypt opened its borders with Gaza to evacuate the casualties into its hospitals, while Palestinian armed groups started firing rounds of projectiles into Israeli border towns, killing a woman in Western Negev community of Netivot and injuring six.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the attacks and called on Israel to stop them.
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad also expressed the same stance, saying his cabinet was holding intensive contacts with Arab and international diplomats to halt the Israeli assaults.
Meanwhile, the armed wing of Islamic Hamas movement, al-Qassam Brigades, threatened to respond to the Israeli attacks. Its militants fired back dozens of makeshift and grad rockets at southern Israeli towns and cities.
"We will violently retaliate, god willing, and will let the (Israeli) occupation know that it has thrown itself into fire by attacking Gaza," said Abu Obaida, a spokesman for Ezz el-Deen al-Qassam Brigades of Hamas.
Fawzi Barhoum, a spokesman for Hamas, called on al-Qassam Brigades to continue and intensify rocket fire into Israeli communities bordering Gaza, blaming "the silent and still Arab position on Gaza massacre."
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