Air strikes bring more devastation in Gaza
Middle East correspondent Ruth Pollard describes how Israeli air strikes have laid waste to many parts of Gaza City, while militants continue to fire long-range rockets toward Israel.PT3M48S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-29kvv 620 349 November 19, 2012
GAZA CITY: Covered in blood and dust and wrapped carefully in white cloth, the bodies of four young children lay next to each other, two to a drawer, in the morgue of Gaza's largest hospital.
Two kilometres away in a tree-lined street in the city's centre, bulldozers dug through rubble trying to find their older sister, her body hidden beneath the family's two-storey house that collapsed when it was hit in an Israeli air strike.
Dust filled the night air and bulldozers' metal trays tore against the twisted wreckage as dozens of neighbours and family members watched, all too aware that this was not a rescue.
Nine members of one family died in this blast - all women and children - along with two neighbours who were walking past the house when the missile hit.
The Israel Defence Forces confirmed it had targeted the house of a Hamas man, believed to be Mohamed Dallu, who was not home at the time of the attack. His four children died - Sara, 7, Jamal, 6, Yusef, 4, and Ibrahim, 2.
However, an unconfirmed list from the blog Palestine From My Eyes contained the names of 11 people who died in the attack including Mr Dallu and four children, although the names and ages of the children differed from earlier reports.
The BBC later reported that Mr Dallu died in the explosion. Yet more than 18 hours after the air strike, the IDF refused to respond to rumours that it had accidentally hit the Dallu house.
Mr Dallu's father, Jamal, said his son was not a Hamas member but a traffic policeman for the Hamas authority that administered Palestinian life in Gaza.
At the Jabalya Camp in Gaza's north, another family was also in mourning. With the air strikes intensifying, Salam Ibrahim had gathered his wife and two young children close to him on Saturday night, all of them sleeping in the same bed in their house in a tiny residential street.
The children, Tamir, 3, and his sister Junah, 2, were killed as they lay next to their parents. The wall of their house collapsed onto the bed after an early morning F-16 air strike.
Israel claims it is carrying out "surgical strikes" in Gaza and is making every effort to avoid civilian casualties. As of Sunday night, the toll for five days of fire was 90 Palestinians and three Israelis.
"We operate slowly, identify the target and clean the area around it," Moshe Yaalon, the Minister for Strategic Affairs, told a press conference in Jerusalem, referring to warnings issued via dropped leaflets and text messages to civilians to stay away from individuals and locations likely to be targeted.
"But when they use civilians as human shields, what is our choice?" he said. "If they position rockets in densely populated areas, such as mosques and schoolyards, we should not be blamed for the outcome."
The Israel Defence Forces said militants in Gaza had fired 55 missiles into Israel, of which 36 were intercepted by its Iron Dome missile defence system, including one rocket fired towards Tel Aviv.
It said it had killed a senior Hamas operative who was responsible for the movement's rocket operations in one of those strikes. An army spokesman identified the Palestinian as Yahya Bia, who was killed in one of the northern neighbourhoods of Gaza City that experienced the brunt of Israeli attacks on Sunday. There were also grim scenes at the al-Shawa building in Gaza City after an Israeli rocket attack targeted the media centre, home to al-Quds television, which is associated with Islamic Jihad, and other news groups.
The stairwell of the building - which was the journalists' only escape after the early morning attack - was stained with blood and littered with broken glass, while the al-Quds offices were destroyed, a massive hole in the roof where the missile landed.
One cameraman, 20-year-old trainee Khader al-Zahhar, had his leg amputated while another, Mohamed Musa al-Akras, sustained serious shrapnel injuries.
Lying in a bed at Shifa Hospital, one side of his face bearing dozens of shrapnel injuries, Mr Akras described the moment after the missile hit the building.
''The rocket fell directly above me and I could not escape, I was in shock and there was dust everywhere,'' the 23-year-old cameraman said. ''After a while I started to scream and call to colleagues in the other rooms and they found me buried under rocks and sand, but when they tried to pull me out another air strike hit.''
In a statement, the Israel Defence Forces said: ''A communications antenna used by Hamas to carry out terror activity against the state of Israel was … targeted.''
But Mr Akras and his family are in no doubt the media centre and not just the antenna was targeted. ''If Israel had meant to hit the communications tower they could easily do so, so why did they strike our offices?'' he asks.
In Israel, five victims of a rocket attack in Ofakim were taken to Beersheva hospital. Three were moderately wounded and two lightly wounded.
The ferocity of Israel's air strikes and the mounting civilian casualties in Gaza, along with another long-range missile fired towards Tel Aviv, have put added pressure on already difficult talks in Cairo aimed at mediating a truce between Hamas and Israel.
One senior Hamas spokesman, Salama Maroof, said there was slim hope a truce could be reached when Israeli air strikes took so many lives. ''This is not just about [the Hamas military leader, Ahmed] al-Jabari. Israel has killed 11 people this evening, and many, many more. If Israel wants to stop its aggression, then we can talk. But before then, how could we consider any deal?'' Mr Maroof said.
For any deal to be acceptable it would have to include more than just an end to the air strikes - Israel would need to agree to lift its five-year blockade of the Gaza Strip, he said.
The Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, did not indicate a truce was imminent in his statement on Sunday.
''By now the IDF has attacked over 1000 terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip and it is continuing its operations as we speak,'' Mr Netanyahu said. ''We are exacting a heavy price from Hamas and the [other] terrorist organisations and the Israel Defence Forces are prepared for a significant expansion of the operation.''