Operation Cast Lead
Day 11 - Tuesday 06 January 2009
Witnesses said Israeli forces were moving deeper into urban areas. They say troops had moved into the southern city of Khan Younis, and that fighting intensified on the outskirts of Gaza City and around the northern refugee camp of Jabaliya. Israel said it had killed 130 militant fighters since it began a ground offensive Saturday. Infantry Corps, Armored Corps, Engineering Corps, Artillery Corps and Intelligence Corps forces were carrying out the ground maneuver in the Gaza Strip in conjunction with the Israel Air Force and the Israel Navy. The IAF hit more than 40 terrorist sites throughout the Gaza Strip, among them eight smuggling tunnels, a vehicle with an anti-aircraft launcher, more than 10 groups of armed terrorists, and five rocket launching sites, including an underground pit used for rocket launching.
Naval forces operated in the central Gaza Strip overnight, near Dir al-Balah. Several gunmen were killed during the operation. The Paratroopers Brigade were operating in northern Gaza and identified a suicide bomber approaching them in order to detonate himself in an attack targeting the soldiers. The troops fired at the man, causing his suicide belt to detonate. One soldier was lightly wounded in the incident. A structure in Jabaliya was attacked in a joint IDF and ISA operation. Iman Siam, the head of the Hamas rocket launching program was inside the building at the time. Siam is one of the senior Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and he founded the organization's rocket launching program, in addition to being the head of Hamas's artillery program throughout the Gaza Strip.
The IAF struck approximately 50 targets in Gaza. Among the targets were:
- Approximately 10 Hamas weapons-storage facilities, some of which were located in the homes of senior members of the organization: Mahmad Shatiwi, a Hamas battalion commander; Osama Tabesh, a Hamas company commander; Bassel Abu Wadi, a Hamas company commander; Ashraff Jouda, a senior Hamas commander.
- Three Hamas weapons storage facilities that also served as meeting places for senior members of the Hamas.
- Two weapons production facilities, one of which was located in the home of Iman Jallalah, a Hamas company commander.
- Five Hamas headquarters and two Hamas police buildings.
- Two weapons smuggling tunnels and a booby-trapped house concealing tunnel entrances.
During the day (Jan.6), IDF forces from the Paratroopers Brigade thwarted a kidnapping attempt targeting soldiers. The forces were operating in the area of Al Atra in the northern Gaza Strip and discovered a trap in the form of a doll used to conceal a tunnel that was designated for the kidnapping of soldiers. IDF forces in the northern Gaza Strip also uncovered numerous munitions, armed rocket launchers, and several active explosive devices, which were detonated by forces in a controlled manner. In addition, forces uncovered smuggling tunnels and underground hiding places used by terrorists used to attack IDF forces.
On Tuesday morning (Jan. 6), another soldier was killed during the IDF ground operation in the Gaza Strip. During a joint activity by the Golani Brigade and Engineering Corps combat forces in the northern Gaza City, terrorists opened fire and killed Staff Sergeant Alexander Mashvitski, a 21 year old Engineering Corps fighter from Beer Sheva. His family has been notified. The forces returned the fire and identified hitting the terrorists. Four additional soldiers were lightly injured in the incident.
With food, medicine and water supplies running low, the UN says the situation in Gaza amounts to a humanitarian crisis. After almost a fortnight of air raids, bombardment and ground battles, the streets are covered with rubble, and hospitals are packed with between 2,000 and 3,000 Palestinians injured.
Palestinian medics say at least 40 people have been killed in an Israeli attack at a United Nations-run school in Gaza. It is the second report of an attack at a U.N. school in the territory Tuesday, the 11th day of Israel's offensive against Hamas militants. Medics say two people died in the other strike, several hours before.
Israel insists it's not targeting civilians and accuses Hamas of using humans as shields by operating in densely populated areas. "While acting this military operation we are trying to take all the necessary steps in order to avoid civilian casualties but unfortunately since they hide among civilians sometimes this can happen," said Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. "The world food program has asked to stop sending food supplies because the storages inside the Gaza strip are filled with food, which Hamas is not distributing to its civilians," said Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokesperson.
- Israel will continue military operations in the Gaza Strip until it stops Hamas' rocket attacks, the local media quoted on Tuesday premier Ehud Olmert as saying. Olmert, who on Monday met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, rejected the European Union's initiative for an immediate humanitarian truce for 48 hours again. The premier said diplomatic options that do not conclusively resolve the problem were unacceptable. "We cannot accept a compromise that will allow [Islamist group] Hamas to shell Israeli towns in two months. The results of the operation must be that Hamas must not only stop firing but must no longer be able to fire," he said. At Monday's meeting with Sarkozy, Israeli President Shimon Peres set three conditions for a truce. "Israel should receive guarantees that rocket launches, rocket smuggling into the Gaza Strip and other kinds of terror stop. The fulfillment of all these demands is an indispensable condition for Israel's consent to any truce," Peres said.
In Cairo, Egyptian mediators are also trying to broker a cease-fire as intelligence head, General Omar Suleiman, meets with two Damascus-based members of Hamas' politburo, Emad al-Alami and Mohammed Nasr. Al-Arabiya TV says that Israel prevented two other Hamas leaders from leaving Gaza to attend the talks. Hamas spokesman in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, says that Hamas leaders will "listen to whatever the Egyptians have to propose," before they return to Gaza to discuss the proposals with political bureau of Hamas. He said the [Israeli] aggression in Gaza must end unconditionally and the border crossings must reopen.
So far, 548 Palestinians have been killed and at least 2,500 injured in the Israeli assault. Five Israeli soldiers have been killed and at least four civilians died as a result of Palestinian rockets fired in response to the Israeli bombing. Israel's bombing campaign destroyed more than 750 facilities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which according to Israel were connected to terrorist activities. Palestinian militants have launched some 500 rockets on Israel in response to the aerial bombing.
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