Israeli killed at least 45 Gazans

Palestinian fighters, undeterred by Israeli troops backed by tanks and attack aircraft, going on resistance swiftly.

Israeli killed at least 45 Gazans

Palestinians called Saturday to call off peace talks with Israel after 45 Gazans, at least half of them civilians, were killed in pitched battles between Israeli troops and rocket squads that escalated sharply.

The deaths pushed the Palestinian death toll to 75 since fighting flared Wednesday — some of the fiercest clashes in Gaza since Islamic Hamas militants seized control there in June. More than half of those killed were civilians.

Israeli troops, backed by tanks and aircraft, went after militants who bombarded southern Israeli communities near Gaza with rockets and mortars.

Israel attrocities just began days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was to arrive in the region on her latest 'peacekeeping' mission.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia said Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, recommended suspending peace talks at a meeting Saturday in the West Bank town of Ramallah.

"I think it will be suspended," Qureia said. "What is happening in Gaza is a massacre of civilians, women and children, a collective killing, genocide," Qureia added. "We can't bear what the Israelis are doing, and what the Israelis are doing doesn't led the peace process any credibility."

In Syria, exiled Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal denounced Israeli attacks against civilians in Gaza, describing them as "the real Holocaust."

Three children were among those killed in some of the fiercest fighting in the Gaza Strip since Islamic Hamas militants seized control there in June. Palestinian fighters bombarded Israel with more than 40 rockets and mortar rounds by early afternoon, undeterred by Israeli troops backed by tanks and attack aircraft.

The bloodletting began before midnight Friday in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, where a 13-month-old girl, Malak Karfaneh, was killed by shrapnel. Hamas blamed Israel, but residents said a militant rocket fell short and landed near the baby's house.

Before dawn Saturday, the battleground shifted to Jebaliya, a center of militant activity in northern Gaza.

Israeli-Palestinian talks resumed in November after a seven-year breakdown at a U.S.-sponsored conference. At the gathering, the two sides pledged to try to reach an accord by the end of this year. In recent weeks, negotiators have met almost daily.

But the rising tide of violence was overshadowing peace efforts.

Not all of the Gazans killed on Saturday were immediately identified, but at least 13 militants and 16 civilians died. The civilians included an unidentified child, a 17-year-old girl and her 16-year-old brother, a 45-year-old man and his 20-year-old son, and two sisters thought to be in their early 20s.

Agencies
Last Mod: 02 Mart 2008, 13:18
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