The death toll in Gaza has reached at least 375 as Israel’s attack on Gaza has entered its fourth day. More than 1,600 Palestinians have been wounded and hospitals are running out of medicines and other products needed to treat them.
On Monday, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel is in a “war to the bitter end against Hamas and its kind.” Israel has rejected calls for a ceasefire, and Israeli troops and tanks continue to mass on the border of Gaza preparing for a possible ground invasion. Israel has declared the area around the Gaza border a closed military zone, ordering out journalists.
Earlier today, Israeli warplanes dropped at least sixteen bombs on five government buildings in Gaza, destroying them and starting several fires. An Israeli air strike in northern Gaza killed two Palestinian sisters, aged four and eleven. The girls were killed when they left their house to dump the family’s garbage. On Monday, an Israeli air strike destroyed a home in the Jabalya refugee camp, killing five sisters. The five girls were between four and seventeen years old. In another incident, eight Palestinian students, ages eighteen to twenty, were killed while waiting for a UN bus to take them home. The United Nations said at least sixty-four Palestinian civilians have died since Saturday.
The Israeli attacks have not prevented Palestinian militants from firing rockets into southern Israel. On Monday, Palestinians fired at least seventy rockets, killing two Israeli civilians and a soldier. The dead included an Israeli woman in the town of Ashdod who was killed from shrapnel wounds while taking cover from incoming rockets at a bus stop. The Israeli death toll since Saturday now stands at four.
Israeli President Shimon Peres: “The situation is simple. Some of the Gazan people are saying 'why doesn't Israel respect the ceasefire?’ One may think that Israel started the fire. It didn’t start the fire. It’s not a symmetric fire. If the people in Gaza want to live in peace, if the people in Gaza want to enjoy free passages, there is a simple thing they have and can do: stop shooting.”
At the United Nations, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon harshly criticized both Israel and Hamas. He condemned what he called Israel’s “excessive” use of force in Gaza.
Ban Ki-moon: “All this must stop. Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric. Only then can dialog start.”
Meanwhile, the Free Gaza Movement said one of its boats, the Dignity, was rammed by Israeli gunboats in international waters. Activists with the Free Gaza Movement are attempting to sail to Gaza with over three tons of medical supplies requested by Palestinian doctors. Passengers include former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney.
Cynthia McKinney: “There is a need for the medical supplies that are on this boat. There is a need for international attention. And perhaps most importantly, there is need for the people in the United States to understand that every piece of rubble that is there in that strip of land is caused by US weapons and the insistence on administration after administration of transferring weapons of mass destruction to parts of the world, and those weapons are then used to hurt and kill people.”
On Capitol Hill, Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich has called on the United Nations to establish an independent inquiry of Israel’s war against Gaza. In a letter to Ban Ki-moon, Kucinich wrote, “The attacks on civilians represent collective punishment, which is a violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The perpetrators of attacks against Israel must also be brought to justice, but Israel cannot create a war against an entire people in order to attempt to bring to justice the few who are responsible.” Protests against the Israeli attack have been held across the globe. In Lebanon, tens of thousand of Hezbollah supporters rallied in Beirut to condemn Israel. In Egypt, thousands of demonstrators denounced Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak for not helping the Palestinians in Gaza. In Amman, Jordan, protesters burned the American and Israeli flags. Here in this country,three women with the Atlantic Life Community were arrested outside the Israeli embassy in Washington on Monday. The women were arrested after they approached the gate of the embassy holding signs reading “Peace. Stop the killing” and “Stop the war on the children.”
Chicago police are investigating an attack on one of the city’s oldest synagogues. A Molotov cocktail was thrown against the wall of Temple Sholom on Monday. The incident caused minimal damage, and no one was injured.
In other news, in Bangladesh, the political alliance headed by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has won a landslide victory in Bangladesh’s first election in seven years. Hasina’s party, the Awami League, ruled Bangladesh from 1996 to 2001. The election was held Sunday, ending two years of army-backed emergency rule.
In news from Africa, UN officials report the Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army has massacred 189 people and kidnapped at least twenty children over three days in northeastern Congo. The New York Times reports the rebels killed scores of people who had sought refuge at a Catholic Church on the day after Christmas. The Lord’s Resistance Army is headed by Joseph Kony who was indicted in 2005 by the International Criminal Court on thirty-three counts of crimes against humanity and war crimes.
In Iran, authorities raided the home of human rights attorney Shirin Ebadi and seized her computers and her clients’ documents. Earlier this month, the Iranian government shut down her organization Center for Defenders of Human Rights. In 2003, Ebadi received the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts for democracy and human rights.
In other news from Iran, four people died in a rare suicide bombing in the southeastern city of Saravan on Monday. The Sunni militant group Jundallah claimed responsibility for the attack. The Iranian government has accused Britain and the United States of supporting Jundallah to destabilize the nation.
In economic news, the US Treasury will inject up to $6 billion into GMAC to help prevent the lending arm of General Motors from collapsing. If GMAC had declared bankruptcy it would have cut off financing to roughly 85 percent of GM’s North American dealers. The pact comes in addition to $17.4 billion in loans for GM and Chrysler.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports the federal government is taking steps that may open California’s coast to oil drilling in as few as three years. The Interior Department has moved to open some or all federal waters for exploration as early as 2010. Rigs could go up in 2012. This could result in the construction of dozens of platforms off the coasts of Sonoma, Mendocino and Humboldt. The bans that protected both of the nation’s coasts beginning in 1981 ended this year when Congress let the moratorium lapse.
The Wall Street Journal reports a federal judge has denied class-action status to thousands of hurricane victims who were exposed to dangerous levels of formaldehyde gas while living in mobile trailers provided by the federal government after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Researchers have found toxic levels in the trailers at between four to eleven times higher than those in average US homes.
The top medical officer in the Washington state Department of Corrections has resigned, saying that the use of staff members to prepare for an execution is unethical. Dr. Marc Stern said the American Medical Association and Society of Correctional Physicians oppose physician involvement in executions, and they oppose physicians supervising anybody who is involved in executions. The state of Washington had been set to execute Darold Ray Stenson this month, but the execution has been postponed.
And the jazz trumpeter Freddie Hubbard has died at the age of seventy.