Arab News
Some place called home,
11 January 2009 (14 Muharram 1430)

GAZA CITY: Not satisfied with killing over 800 people, Israel yesterday warned Gaza residents that the worst was yet to come. Israeli forces bombed and shelled heavily populated areas in the coastal strip on the 15th day of its war on Palestinians, in one instance killing a family of eight in a garden outside a home in the northern Gaza town of Jabaliya. Flames and smoke rose over Gaza City amid heavy fighting and Israeli planes dropped leaflets warning of an impending “new phase” in the offensive that has already killed 854 Palestinians, 270 of them children.

Thirteen Israelis have died since Dec. 27. Nine were soldiers killed in Gaza, and four, including one soldier, were killed by rocket attacks on Israel.

“We were at home when the bombing started,” one of the survivors of the Jabaliya attack, Umm Mohammed, said while being treated for injuries at a nearby hospital. “We fled toward another house and the tanks started firing. Several of us were hit.”

New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Israel of using white-phosphorus munitions in its offensive and warned of the risk to civilians. The group said that its researchers observed multiple air-bursts on Jan. 9 and 10 of artillery-fired white phosphorus near Gaza City and Jabaliya.

“White phosphorus has a significant, incidental, incendiary effect that can severely burn people and set structures, fields and other civilian objects in the vicinity on fire. The potential for harm to civilians is magnified by Gaza’s high population density, among the highest in the world,” HRW said.

Mauritania, an Arab League member, said its decision to recall its ambassador to Israel earlier this week marked the “first step” to cutting ties with the Jewish state. Cheikh Ben Horma Ould Ben Babana, adviser to the president of Mauritania’s ruling High Council of State, said after talks with Arab League officials in Cairo: “This relationship between Mauritania and the Israeli entity disturbs and embarrasses Mauritanians.” Mauritania is one of only three Arab countries to have diplomatic relations with Israel, along with Egypt and Jordan.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas pressed his rivals Hamas to accept an Egyptian plan to end the war, as a Hamas delegation arrived in Cairo to discuss the proposal.

“We hope that the (Hamas delegation) will reach an agreement without hesitation,” Abbas told journalists after meeting Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who floated his peace plan Tuesday.

“The situation does not allow us to lose time,” Abbas added.

The Egyptian plan seeks to meet Israel’s requirement of preventing weapons going to Gaza through Egyptian tunnels and Hamas’ demand for a reopening of Gaza’s borders to normal traffic.

But Egypt ruled out allowing international troops to deploy on the Egyptian side of the border with Gaza as part of a possible cease-fire deal.

“Nobody is talking about international troops (in Egypt). We are talking about arrangements and measures. There will be no international troops of any kind on the Egyptian side,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit told a news conference.

Abbas supported the Egyptian position, saying an international force should not deploy even on the border.

A senior Hamas official repeated the position of the group, which opposes the presence of international observers throughout the Gaza Strip. “We cannot accept international forces in the Gaza Strip because the presence of international forces would be for the protection of the Israelis, and not the protection of the Palestinian people,” Mohammed Nazzal of Hamas told Al-Jazeera.