The madness continues. Ehud Olmert and his generals have made the ultimate decision to enter Gaza City, the most densely populated portion of the territory of Gaza where a considerable portion of its 1.5 million residents live. Thousands of civilians are fleeing their homes under sustained, ferocious bombardment. The AP gives you a small sense of the insanity:
Israeli troops backed by helicopter gunships, tanks and heavy guns thrust further into the city than ever before to seek out Hamas fighters, executing the army’s most relentless shelling of the Gaza Strip in nearly three weeks of fighting.
Live video footage from a Reuters camera in central Gaza showed sustained artillery fire from the edge of the city for several hours. Shells exploded in downtown areas and long machinegun bursts echoed off Gaza’s cramped housing blocks.
Much of the fighting was centred in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood, where some residents fled on foot while others remained in the precarious shelter of their homes as a night-time attack stretched into the morning.
Tanks and bulldozers rolled into a neighborhood park, apparently seizing it as a kind of command center, witnesses said. Masked gunmen ran toward the areas under fire carrying bags containing unidentified objects.
Residents were seen fleeing their homes in pajamas, some wheeling elderly parents in wheelechairs. Others were stopping journalists’ armored cars or ambulances pleading for someone to take them to safety.
Israeli forces have encircled the city of 500,000 people for days.
The Gazan death toll is 1.024. The Palestine Human Rights Center estimates that 670 of the dead were civilians, a far higher percentage of the dead than previously reported by the N.Y. Times and other media outlets. I’d guess that the Times 25% claim is grossly understated. And of course, fighting among civilians will dramatically raise the civilian death count.