Gaza death toll over 400 as Hamas vows victory
Israeli jets bombed the Palestinian parliament building in Gaza Strip early Thursday and navy ships opened fire at Hamas positions along the coastline. According to the AP, blasts shook Gaza City as Israeli planes targeted three government buildings, including the parliament. Hospital officials said 25 wounded were evacuated from nearby houses. The Israeli army said aircraft also bombed smuggling tunnels along the Gaza-Egypt border.
One pre-dawn strike targeting the house of a Hamas operative in northern Gaza Strip killed a 35-year-old woman and wounded eight people, a Gaza Health Ministry official said. Gaza officials said some 400 people have died and 2000 have been wounded since Saturday. Hamas claimed some 200 uniformed members of Hamas security forces have been killed, and the U.N. says at least 60 Palestinian civilians have died.
In Israel, three civilians and a soldier have been killed by rocket fire from Gaza.
Israel sent more troops to the Gaza Strip border on Wednesday, rapidly moving forward with preparations for a possible ground offensive as the next stage of its military assault. Israeli warplanes have carried out some 500 sorties in five days against Hamas targets, and helicopters have flown hundreds more combat missions, a senior Israeli military officer conveyed.
On his part, senior Hamas member, Osama Mazini, said in a statement distributed by the Hamas press office that his fighters were eager for a ground assault. "The people of Gaza are waiting to see the Zionist enemy in Gaza to tear them into pieces of flesh," said Mazini.
He also had a message for anyone who might question the wisdom of Hamas' decision to take on Israel and provoke the fiercest military assault on Gaza since the 1967 Mideast war. "Whoever says that Hamas entered a losing gamble, we say this is the price of victory and liberation. Whoever doesn't pay the price will be a slave all their lives," he said.
The Hamas prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh, promised victory in a speech broadcast later on a Hamas TV station. "Absolutely, you will be victorious with God's will. Victory is near, God willing, it is closer than what people expect," Haniyeh said.