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Israeli raid kills brothers as Hamas warns of 'black destiny'

Israeli bombs Gaza's disused airport: witnesses
Israeli warplanes on Friday bombarded the Gaza Strip's defunct international airport along the Palestinian territory's border with Egypt, Hamas and witnesses said. They said one person was injured in the bombing of the airport facility located in close proximity to both the Egyptian and the Israeli borders. An Israeli army spokesman said he could not immediately confirm the report. Shortly after the Palestinian uprising broke out in 2000, the Israeli army destroyed the newly built airport's radar station in 2001 and bulldozed its runways. The airport has not operated since.
by Staff Writers
Gaza City (AFP) Jan 2, 2009
Warplanes killed three young brothers and demolished a mosque in Gaza on Friday as Hamas warned that a "black destiny" awaits Israel if ground forces join the week-long offensive.

"If you commit the stupidity of launching a ground offensive then a black destiny awaits you," the Islamist group's Syrian-based chief Khaled Meshaal said in a pre-taped speech aired on Al-Jazeera television.

"You will soon find out that Gaza is the wrath of the God," said Meshaal as Israeli aircraft continued pounding the Hamas stronghold.

The United States gave Israel free reign on whether to send troops into the densely populated Palestinian territory, insisting that the key to a ceasefire is an Israeli demand for Hamas to permanently halt rocket fire.

"So I think any steps they are taking, whether it's from the air or on the ground or anything of that nature, are part and parcel of the same operation," said White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe.

"Those will be decisions made by the Israelis."

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert met with senior ministers as tanks and troops stood at the ready on the Gaza border.

Israel's main ally, the United States, said it was working with Middle East allies on brokering a ceasefire.

"We are working toward a ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said after talks with President George W. Bush.

A missile fired by an Israeli jet slammed into a house in southern Gaza, killing three boys, aged from seven to 10. It was one of more than 58 fresh raids carried out in the overcrowded enclave on Friday.

A 12-year-old girl died of her wounds after the bombing of a house near Gaza belonging to a member of Islamic Jihad, and two gunmen from the armed wing of Hamas were killed in Jabaliya after firing rockets, medics said.

Since Israel unleashed its air and sea campaign, at least 435 Palestinians have been killed, including 66 children, and 2,150 others wounded, according to Gaza medics.

The bombardment has demolished dozens of houses and heightened concern over the humanitarian situation in the enclave where most of the 1.5 million residents depend on foreign aid.

"The protection of civilians, the fabric of life, the future of the peace talks and of the regional peace process has been trapped between the irresponsibility of the Hamas attacks and the excessiveness of the Israeli response," Robert Serry, the UN envoy for the Middle East, told reporters in Jerusalem.

Thousands of Hamas faithful attended the funeral of Nizar Rayan -- a firebrand hardliner who was killed with his four wives and 11 children on Thursday.

Hamas vowed to avenge the death of the most senior Hamas leader killed by Israel since Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004 and warned that it could resume suicide attacks against Israel for the first time since January 2005.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets of Gaza and the occupied West Bank after Hamas called for "day of wrath" protests. Police fired teargas at rock-throwing youths in annexed east Jerusalem.

With a ground offensive widely expected and no ceasefire in sight, the Israeli army opened a border crossing to allow an estimated 400 people with foreign passports to leave the battered enclave.

A mosque in the northern town of Jabaliya that the military said was a "terror hub" used for stockpiling weapons was among the targets hit in Israeli raids on Friday.

Fighter jets also fired missiles at Gaza's defunct international airport near the Egyptian border, according to Hamas and witnesses.

Hamas fired more than 30 rockets into Israel, but no casualties were reported.

Israel unleashed "Operation Cast Lead" on December 27 in response to persistent rocket fire.

Gaza militants have fired more than 360 rockets into Israel over seven days, killing four people and wounding dozens more.

The Israeli offensive has sparked angry protests in the Muslim world and defied diplomatic efforts to broker a truce.

Demonstrations were held in many countries following Friday Muslim prayers, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Indian-administered Kashmir, Jordan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Turkey.

Protests also took place across Europe, where Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni reiterated that Israel was not yet ready for a truce after talks on Thursday with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Peace moves were also stalled at the UN Security Coucil as "the gravity of the diplomatic activities... will be moving this weekend to New York," according to UN Middle East envoy Serry.

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Hamas orders 'day of wrath' over Israel blitz
Gaza City (AFP) Jan 2, 2009
Israeli warplanes pounded militant targets including a mosque in Gaza on Friday as Hamas ordered a "day of wrath" against Israel over the killing of a senior commander.

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