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11 Jan, 2009 07:43

Hamas and Israel ignore UN ceasefire call

Fighting in Gaza shows no signs of letting up. With both Hamas and Israel ignoring UN ceasefire demands, Egypt is hosting frantic peace talks.

Israel says for as long as rockets continue to be fired across the border, the resolution is unworkable.

And Hamas says it wasn’t consulted and insists Israel first must end its economic blockade of Gaza.

Egypt has now taken centre-stage to see if it can broker a peace-deal.

And Russia’s special envoy to the Middle East, Aleksandr Sultanov, is in the region trying to get the warring sides to speak to each other.

“We are calling for an international force to protect the Palestinian people and this call is not new. We have been calling for it for the last 30 years, and we are still calling for an international force to protect Palestinians,” Palestinian Autonomy president Mahmoud Abbas said.

According to the Ministry of Health and information arriving from hospitals, over 850 Palestinians have now been killed in Gaza, around half of who are Hamas fighters.

Dozens of the dead are reported remaining in the streets or lying in derelict houses.

The death toll from Israeli side is estimated at three civilians and ten soldiers.

A fresh wave of Israeli air strikes on Saturday targeted weapons storage facilities and smuggling tunnels.

Israeli soldiers are on standby for the next phase of their operation – to enter the most densely populated areas of Gaza.

Israeli forces have been dropping leaflets on Gaza saying they will go door to door searching for Hamas militants.

They are warning Palestinians to stay away from Hamas areas which are to be targeted.

Meanwhile aid agencies say Gaza’s one-and-a-half million people are in urgent need of food and medical aid.

“The humanitarian situation needs us all as international community to work together in order to achieve the condition for a permanent ceasefire, and we hope to do that,” German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said.

The Human Rights Watch pressure group is accusing Israel of using banned white phosphorous shells indiscriminately in built-up areas, causing civilians to be badly burnt.

Protests turn violent

International protests against Israeli actions continued on Saturday, with demonstrations in Paris and London turning violent.

Crowds have gathered in numerous cities over the past two weeks, some in support of Israel, some against.

But as the death toll in Gaza rises, so does the tension surrounding the protests.

France saw scores of protests in cities all over the country.

In Paris crowds chanted 'Israel Assassin' and burnt an Israeli flag to show solidarity with Gaza's Palestinians.

A march last week also descended into violence with cars set on the fire and shop windows smashed.

In London 20,000 people gathered, accusing Israel of committing a 'massacre'.

The rioters then turned on police, knocking one officer unconscious with a hail of stones and debris.

Twenty four people were arrested before the crowd was eventually dispersed.