Israel on Sunday intensified strikes on the Gaza Strip for the ninth consecutive day, a day after its army carried out a large-scale ground operation into the enclave, leaving 514 people killed since December 27.
Israeli warplanes struck by missiles dozens of targets into Gaza on Sunday as columns of tanks rolled deep into the enclave on Saturday night, cutting it into two separate areas, Hamas local Radio Station al-Aqsa Radio said.
The Israeli army began a ground operation on Saturday night, eight days after Israeli warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes on hundreds of targets, where Israel said they belong to Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.
Israeli soldiers drive an armored car in Gaza strip, January 4, 2009. Israeli on Sunday army clamed 30 injureds since the ground operation on January 3, 2009. [Yin Bogu/Xinhua]
Witnesses said that dozens of tanks, armored vehicles and hundreds of Israeli paratroops seized an area south of Gaza City, which is used to be the Israeli settlement of Nitzarim, amid intensive tanks shelling in all directions.
The Israeli ground forces had also seized areas east of Gaza City, northeast and northwest of the Gaza Strip, said local Radio stations, adding that Israeli forces were supported by heavy and intensive airstrikes on the whole enclave.
Mo'aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian Health Ministry, told reporters that since the beginning of the ground operation in Gaza on Saturday night, over 50 Palestinians were killed and more than 200 injured.
He added that the death toll of the Palestinians who were killed since the beginning of the Israeli offensive on the Gaza Strip on December 27, 514 were killed and 2600 wounded, at least 800 are in serious conditions.
Israeli soldiers drive armored cars in Gaza strip, January 4, 2009. Israeli on Sunday army clamed 30 injureds since the ground operation on January 3, 2009. [Yin Bogu/Xinhua]
He expected that the death toll would grow higher and higher in the coming days if the Israeli army continues airstrikes and tanks shelling on houses, mosques, markets, cars and densely populated areas.
Hassanein warned of a severe humanitarian crisis at hospitals and in the Gaza Strip in general if the Israeli air and ground operations continue on the Gaza Strip, amid a tight blockade imposed on the enclave.
In a fresh Israeli airstrike, Hassanein said that two Palestinians were killed after Israeli warplanes struck a mosque in Zeitoon neighborhood in southern Gaza City.
Witnesses said that a mosque and money exchange store in Gaza City were struck by missiles on Sunday night, and two were killed at the mosque, but no injuries reported in the attack on the money exchange store.
Hassanein said that four Palestinian paramedics were killed and more than ten people were injured in two separate airstrikes that targeted paramedics who were trying to rescue casualties in southern Gaza City.
He also said that earlier during the day, five Palestinians were killed in an airstrike on Mosab Ben Omier mosque in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza Strip.
Hassanein added that another crime was carried out earlier during the day, where a mother and her four children were killed when Israeli warplanes hit their house in Tufah neighborhood in eastern Gaza City.
He added that among the five dead, there is a one-year-old baby boy and a 2-year-old baby girl.
In southern Gaza Strip, medics at Rafah Hospital said that five civilians belong to the same family were killed in an airstrike on their house in Rafah town, adding that among them two adults and three children.
In northern Gaza Strip, medics said that four children were killed in the town of Beit Lahia in northern Gaza Strip, in addition to six other adults, in a series of intensive Israeli airstrikes early on Sunday morning.
Also on Sunday, an Israeli missile hit Firas market in Gaza city downtown, killing five Palestinians and wounded 40. The strike targeted a Hamas activist. He was killed and his colleague was injured.
Meanwhile, Hamas armed wing al-Qassam Brigades said in separate statements that its militants launched more than 20 rockets at southern Israeli towns and cities, mainly Ashdod, Ashkelon and Sderot.
The group also said that its militants confronted "the invading Zionist forces and caused severe damages and fatalities among the soldiers." It claimed that dozens of soldiers were killed and wounded.
(Xinhua News Agency January 5, 2009)