Gazan death toll tops 900 as Israeli reservists join offensive

The number of the Palestinians, Israel killed, stood at 905 as almost 4,100 Palestinians have also been wounded since the beginning of the 17-day offensive.

Gazan death toll tops 900 as Israeli reservists join offensive

Israel has confirmed sending thousands of army reservists into Gaza, raising concerns that a "third stage" of its offensive - targeting urban centres - could soon begin.

An Israeli military spokesman said army reservists had been sent to the offensive.

Israeli forces are staging their bloodiest assault on Palestinians in decades of occupation.

In violence on Monday, Israeli forces killed a Palestinian fighter and four civilians, medical workers said.

Israeli soldiers attacked Hamas fighters east and north of the city of Gaza in what residents called ferocious.

The Israeli military said its aircraft carried out more than 10 attacks overnight.

The Palestinian death toll since Israel's assault began stood at 905, Gaza medical officials said. Almost 4,100 Palestinians have also been wounded since the beginning of the offensive.

Israel says 13 Israelis - three civilians- and 10 soldiers -- have died.

The health minister in the Gaza, Bassem Naeem, told reporters that 42 percent of those killed, about a quarter of them children.

Reuters journalists covering sites of attacks and hospital facilities have seen dozens of bodies of women and children.

"Third stage"

Egypt's state news agency MENA said more talks in Cairo with a Hamas delegation on an Egyptian plan for a ceasefire were planned for Monday after "positive" discussions a day earlier.

Hamas official Osama Hamdan said some delegates had returned to Damascus for consultations with the group's leadership.

Hamdan said Hamas was working on a final position on the Egyptian proposal: "The movement has essential concerns over some aspects of this initiative and there are issues the movement cannot accept," he told Lebanon's al-Manar television.

Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has said the group would consider a ceasefire only after Israel ended its air, sea and ground assault and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Western and Israeli officials said diplomats were discussing an internationally technical monitoring system to help Egypt stop any kinds of aids through tunnels on Gaza border.

Israel defied a U.N. ceasefire resolution last week and continued the bombardments.

Israeli warplanes have repeatedly bombed the Philadelphi corridor along Gaza's 14-km (nine-mile) border with Egypt, sometimes using "bunker buster" munitions.

Thousands of Rafah's 150,000 residents have fled their homes because of the Israeli offensive.

Most Palestinian homes next the Philadelphi corridor have been shelled.

Western diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity, described a ground operation to sieze the corridor and parts of the town of Rafah as one of Israel's "third stage" plans.

Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, a candidate for prime minister in a Feb. 10 election gave no indication in an interview with Army Radio when Israeli assaults might end.

Political sources said coalitions partners Livni, chairman of the ruling Kadima party, and Defence Minister Ehud Barak, head of centre-left Labour, wanted to stop the assault as soon as possible, but the sources said outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who resigned as Kadima chief in September, did not accept the halt.


Agencies

Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2009, 16:53
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