Israeli airstrikes launched in response to Palestinian rocket and
mortar attacks have killed more than 200 people in the Gaza Strip.
Palestinian sources say saturday's raids on
Hamas security compounds in the territory wounded more than 300 others.
Television footage showed bodies of uniformed security men lying on the
ground at a Hamas installation.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak warned the operation against Hamas security targets in Gaza will expand as necessary.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert vowed to avoid civilian casualties
in Gaza, and said Hamas is Israel's target. He also pledged to avert a
Hamas vowed to avenge the attacks and fired more than 50 rockets into
southern Israel, killing one person and wounding at least five others.
The Israeli raids triggered condemnation in the Arab world. The Arab
League has scheduled an emergency meeting Sunday to assess the
situation. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa says Libya will
call on members of the U.N. Security Council to meet as soon as
possible to deal with the situation in Gaza.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, a rival of Hamas, denounced the
air strikes and called for restraint. Egypt also condemned the air
raids and said it would open its border with Gaza to allow some of the
wounded to be brought out. Protesters in the Jordanian capital, Amman,
condemned the Israeli attack.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the European Union and Russia urged
Hamas and Israel to stop the fighting. The United States called on
Israel to avoid civilian casualties. White House spokesman Gordon
Johndroe also said Hamas must end its terrorist activities if it wants
to play a role in the future of the Palestinian people.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she holds Hamas
responsible for breaking a six-month cease-fire that ended last week
and for the renewal of violence in Gaza. She says the cease-fire must
be restored immediately.
The Vatican says all sides must look for a different way out, even if that may seem impossible.
Tensions between Israel and Hamas have escalated since the cease-fire
expired. The Israeli raid follows days of rocket and mortar attacks on
Israel by militants in Gaza, and Israeli warnings of reprisal attacks.