Israel strikes Gaza tunnels, residents fleeing

Israeli jets have carried out fresh air strikes on tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, sending hundreds of people fleeing their homes in panic.

Israel strikes Gaza tunnels, residents fleeing
Israeli jets have carried out fresh air strikes on tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, reportedly sending hundreds of people fleeing their homes in panic.

Residents near the town of Rafah fled as missiles hit tunnels, any casualties have yet known.

The strikes came ahead of US envoy George Mitchell's visit to promote a permanent Israel-Hamas ceasefire.

Mitchell's visit follows a call by Obama for a return to Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations.

Both sides declared ceasefires on 17 and 18 January to end Israel's three-week offensive on Gaza.

Egypt is mediating a lasting ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, which refuse to hold direct negotiations.

Hamas has said it wants Israel to open border crossings and the blockade in exchange for fighters halting rocket fire. It has rebuffed Israeli request to include an Israeli soldier in any ceasefire deal.

Gazans live under heavy Israel siege for a long time and Egypt still insists on not to opening the only Gaza border crossing in a move condemned by Muslims around the world in protests, leaving Gazans desperate to digging tunnels underground and risking their lives.

Meanwhile, the Israeli group Peace Now released a report Wednesday saying West Bank settlements expanded more in 2008 than they had the previous year.

The report said 1,257 new structures were built in settlements during 2008, compared to 800 in 2007, an increase of 57 percent.

The group said building more than doubled in settler outposts, which unlike settlements are not recognized by the Israeli government — with 261 structures erected in 2008, compared to 98 the year before.

The Palestinians demand a complete halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank during peace negotiations, saying their expansion is stealing their lands.

Agencies
Last Mod: 28 Ocak 2009, 13:13
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