By Izzat Ramini and AFP
Israeli F16 fighters, helicopters and warships were raiding Monday evening Palestinian targets in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian security sources and eyewitnesses said. At least 80 Palestinians were injured, according to eyewitnesses, who added that ambulances faced major difficulties getting to the damaged sites to carry the injured to hospitals.
Shifa hospital sources told AFP that the injured were treated for burns, shrapnel wounds and cuts.
Witnesses said several Palestinian residential buildings were hit during the missile raids which also blasted many security buildings.
The police academy, the Preventive security headquarters and the TV building in Gaza were hit, in addition to Marjeyya building, the main headquarters of Fateh movement in Gaza. The four-storey building is also used as offices by the popular organizations functioning under Fateh. The sources said that the Jawazat building, the main headquarters of the Palestinian police was also raided.
Al-Saraya, the seven-storey building, which contains the headquarters of the preventive security, the national security, the intelligence and the Palestinian police, was raided and completely destroyed, according to eyewitnesses.
Israeli helicopters and fighters also bombarded the power generators in the city in addition to residential areas.
Electricity and telecommunications were cut off, they said, while raids were still underway until after eight Monday.
Eyewitnesses said that anti-aircraft weapons were used by the Palestinians.
They added that the Israeli forces re-raided the same sites, a matter, which inflicted more casualties among the people who gathered at the sites after the first raids.
The escalation came following a decision by the Israeli security cabinet to strike Palestinian targets.
Palestinian security sources told Albawaba.com that Palestinian security posts were evacuated in anticipation of the attack, which was expected after Palestinians bombed an Israeli school bus early morning, killing two, and injuring 16 others.
Israel said its air strikes were a "clear message" to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat after the bomb attack, according to AFP.
"These operations constitute a clear message addressed to Arafat and to the Palestinian Authority after the serious attack of a strategic nature against a bus carrying children," cabinet secretary, Yitzhak Herzog, said over Israeli radio.
Meanwhile, Israel promised that “at this stage” it would not target head of Palestinian preventive security Mohammad Dahlan personally, according to Likud leader Ariel Sharon, who revealed this in his Knesset speech Monday afternoon. Israeli Channel 2 TV confirmed this, citing cabinet sources as saying the decision was taken after a request by Arafat in this regard.
The Palestinian leadership appealed to the international community for protection after the intense Israeli punitive raids on cities in the Gaza Strip, said AFP.
"The leadership asks the Arab and Islamic world, their nations and people, the United Nations, the two sponsors of the peace process (the United States and Russia), the European Union, Japan and China and the non-aligned movement to immediately intervene to ensure protection for our people and stop these hideous aggressions against them," said a statement issued by the leadership, quoted by AFP.
A top aide to Arafat had demanded that Israel halt its punitive bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which he said risked creating a situation "no-one can control."
"We hold Israel responsible for this grave escalation. Israel must stop these attacks immediately in order that the situation does not deteriorate in to a situation that no-one can control," Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
On his part, PA spokesman, Ahmed Abdelrahman told Albawaba.com that the Israeli “aggression” will but increase the determination of the Palestinian people.
“We are ready to die” Abdel Rahman said, adding that “the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authorities will not bow down to Israeli arrogance.”
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)