STAGHREED EL-KHODARY and ISABEL KERSHNER
Monday, Dec 29, 2008
Israeli troops and tanks massed along the Gaza border and the government said it had called up reserves for a possible ground operation, as the death toll increased to more than 300 after Israeli aircraft pounded Gaza for a third day on Monday.
Hamas said Israel bombed a government ministry compound and the Islamic University in Gaza, a stronghold of Hamas, late Sunday night. The Hamas-owned television station Al Aqsa was also struck, as was a mosque that the Israeli military said was being used as a terrorist base. On Monday, Israeli warplanes bombed the Hamas-run Interior Ministry, Reuters reported, based on a Hamas statement.
In a statement on Monday, the Israeli army said some areas around Gaza had been declared a “closed military zone,” a move which some analysts depicted as a potential precursor to a ground offensive. The military said the declaration meant that civilians, including journalists, could be denied access to an area up to two miles from Gaza.
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A military spokeswoman, Maj. Avital Leibovich, said the closed military area around Gaza had mostly to do with concerns of safety. She said the military had information that Hamas may employ either suicide bombers or more powerful missiles from the border area and it wanted to clear the area out. She said she was sure journalists would be permitted back after awhile.
“No one is trying to hide anything,” she said.
The military also reported that a rocket fired Monday from Gaza killed a man and wounded seven people in the southern Israeli town of Ashkelon. Additionally, three Israelis were stabbed by a Palestinian in a Jewish settlement in the West Bank, the military said.
This article was posted: Monday, December 29, 2008 at 5:21 am