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Israeli airstrikes in Gaza kill more than


200
U.N. Security Council calls for an immediate halt to all
violence in territory

breaking news
msnbc.com news services
updated 2:42 a.m. ET Dec. 28, 2008
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The U.N. Security Council called early Sunday for an
immediate halt to all violence in Gaza after a day of Israeli air strikes killed more than
200.
"The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern at the escalation of the
situation in Gaza and called for an immediate halt to all violence," said the statement,
read to reporters by Croatian Ambassador Neven Jurica, president of the council.
"The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities
Israeli warplanes rained more than 100 tons of bombs on security sites in Hamas-ruled
Gaza Saturday and early Sunday, killing at least 230 people in one of the Mideast
conflict's bloodiest assaults in decades.
The government said the open-ended campaign was aimed at stopping rocket attacks that
have traumatized southern Israel.
Emergency consultations
Earlier, Libya, on behalf of the Arab Group of nations at the U.N., called the late night
council meeting.
"There is no justification for this whatsoever," Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N.
observer, told reporters before the council began its closed-door consultations. "This
collective punishment is inhumane, immoral and should be stopped immediately. There is
no justification for punishing 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza because of the actions of a
few."
The unprecedented assault sparked protests and condemnations throughout the Arab
world, and many of Israel's Western allies urged restraint, though the U.S. blamed Hamas
for the fighting.
But there was no end in sight. The first round of strikes began around noon Saturday
followed by successive waves of attacks that continued into the early hours Sunday.
Most of the casualties in the Israeli attacks were among security forces, but Palestinian
officials said at least 15 civilians were among the dead. More than 400 people were also
wounded.
Israel warned it might go after Hamas' leaders, and militants kept pelting Israel with
rockets — killing at least one Israeli and wounding six.
Troops head for border
Hundreds of Israeli infantry and armored corps troops headed for the Gaza border in
preparation for a possible ground invasion, military officials said, speaking on condition
of anonymity under army guidelines.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said late Saturday that the goal was "to bring about a
fundamental improvement in the security situation." He added, "It could take some time."
The Israeli airstrikes caused widespread panic and confusion, and black plumes of smoke
billowed above the territory, ruled by the Islamic militant Hamas for the past 18 months.
Some of the Israeli missiles struck in densely populated areas as students were leaving
school, and women rushed into the streets frantically looking for their children.
"My son is gone, my son is gone," wailed Said Masri, a 57-year-old shopkeeper, as he sat
in the middle of a Gaza City street, slapping his face and covering his head with dust
from a bombed-out security compound nearby.
He said he had sent his 9-year-old son out to purchase cigarettes minutes before the
airstrikes began and could not find him. "May I burn like the cigarettes, may Israel burn,"
Masri moaned.
Cell-phone warnings
Militants often operate against Israel from civilian areas. Late Saturday, thousands of
Gazans received Arabic-language cell-phone messages from the Israeli military, urging
them to leave homes where militants might have stashed weapons.
The offensive began eight days after a six-month truce between Israel and the militants
expired. The Israeli army says Palestinian militants have fired some 300 rockets and
mortars at Israeli targets over the past week, and 10 times that number over the past year.
"There is a time for calm and there is a time for fighting, and now is the time for
fighting," said Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, vowing to expand the operation if
necessary.
In Gaza City's main security compound, bodies of more than a dozen uniformed Hamas
police lay on the ground. Civilians rushed wounded people in cars and vans to hospitals
because there weren't enough ambulances to transport all the dead and wounded.
"There are heads without bodies .... There's blood in the corridors. People are weeping,
women are crying, doctors are shouting, " said nurse Ahmed Abdel Salaam from Shifa
Hospital, Gaza's main treatment center.
100 tons of bombs
Military officials said aircraft released more than 100 tons of bombs in the first nine
hours of fighting, focusing initially on militant training camps, rocket-manufacturing
facilities and weapons warehouses that had been identified in advance.
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A second wave was directed at squads who fired about 180 rockets and mortars at Israeli
border communities. Palestinians said Israeli bombs destroyed a mosque early Sunday.
The military called it a "base for terrorist activities."
Another target early Sunday was the Al Aqsa TV station used by Hamas. Its studio
building was destroyed, but the station remained on the air with a mobile unit.
Palestinians counted about 20 airstrikes in the first hours of Sunday.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said Hamas' political leaders could soon be targeted.
"Hamas is a terrorist organization and nobody is immune," she declared.
CONTINUED : Israeli elections six weeks away