Five more Palestinians were killed by Israeli air strikes overnight and in the early morning in the beleaguered Gaza Strip. Israeli bombs fell even as Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil visited the territory.
At least 15 people have been wounded by what eyewitnesses described as heavy Israeli bombardment across Gaza.
Israeli sources said that military aircraft carried out 250 attacks against what it claims were rocket launch pads. However, most of the buildings hit were for used solely for social and civil purposes, including the Ministry of the Interior.
Trying to deal with the casualties is proving to be difficult. A spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health, Ashraf Al-Qedra, confirmed that medical staff face severe shortages of medicines and medical equipment in hospitals across the Gaza Strip.
Reports in the Israeli media quote Israeli officials saying that they are planning to extend the military offensive. Minister of Strategic Affairs Moshe Yalon said that “Israel is ready to carry out a ground invasion if a long-term truce is not reached with Hamas.” As if in confirmation of this, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday approved the call-up of 30,000 Israeli reservists.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil, accompanied by a number of ministers and senior officials, arrived in Gaza on Friday morning. Deputy Prime Minister in Gaza Zeyad Al-Zaza and other Palestinian officials received him at the Rafah crossing. Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh caught up with Mr. Qandil at the headquarters of the Ministerial Council and joined him for a tour of Al-Shefa Hospital to visit victims wounded by Israel’s aggression. A number of doctors are expected to arrive in Gaza soon from Egypt to help their colleagues to treat the casualties of Israel’s war. Former Egyptian presidential candidate Dr Abdul-Mun’em abul-Fotouh also accompanied the delegation.
Qandil told the media that his visit is to show his support for the people in Gaza and to discuss arrangements for relief convoys from Egypt. Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth reported that Netanyahu insisted that Israel would not attack Gaza during Qandil’s visit out of respect for the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel, but live television footage during the visit appeared to contradict that claim.
Although the Israeli media claimed that three home-made rockets launched from the Gaza Strip landed in Tel Aviv, causing air raid sirens to be heard for the first time since the Gulf War in 1990, no casualties were reported. The military wing of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Al-Qassam Brigades, announced that it had downed an Israeli drone and broadcast a short video of the UAV, although this has been denied by Israel.
Nevertheless, such developments are new and unexpected in the asymmetric Palestine-Israel conflict. Israeli analysts accused government and military officials of knowing how to start a war but not how to end one. They called the violence an “irritation” which has gone beyond Israeli goals.
MEMO Photographer: Mohammed Asad
and Freelance photographer: Ismail Farhat