Olmert: Gaza operation may 'continue for some time'

Israeli jets pounded Hamas targets in Gaza and Hamas militants launched more rockets into Israel, as Palestinian security sources said Sunday that at least 277 people had been killed and hundreds wounded.

srael will call up 7,000 reserve soldiers, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said during the weekly Cabinet meeting. He told ministers he planned to present the measure to two Knesset committees, which must approve the action.

Meanwhile, Israeli ground troops and tanks were deployed around Gaza. There is no indication of a ground operation inside Gaza, but a senior military official said the air raids would continue and that troops around Gaza will "be activated if needed."

The U.N. called for a halt to hostilities, but Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said at the Cabinet meeting that the operation "is liable to continue for some time, perhaps more than can be foreseen at the present time."

Hamas, too, showed no signs of backing down.

For a second day, black plumes of smoke rose above Gaza City as makeshift ambulances screamed down rubble-strewn streets, taking wounded Palestinians to hospitals already crowded with hundreds of patients wounded this weekend.

Terrified people huddled in their basements for safety, with few venturing outside, said Dr. Eyad El-Sarraj, a psychiatrist who runs Gaza's mental health program.

"The children are terrified," El-Sarraj said. "Adults are unable to provide them with security or warmth. Hospitals are stretched out of the limits. We need blood and medicine and surgical equipment."

He further warned that Gaza is heading for "a major humanitarian disaster" unless the fighting ends.

The U.N. Security Council ended a four-hour emergency meeting Sunday with a call for an immediate halt to hostilities and a re-opening of border crossings to allow humanitarian supplies to reach Gaza.

The Palestinians' U.N. envoy said if Israel does not halt attacks within 48 hours, Arab delegations will demand stronger action from the Security Council.

Israel gave in to requests from the Red Cross and others to allow 16 trucks loaded with fuel, food and medical supplies into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing Sunday morning. Egypt sent 20 ambulances to its border with Gaza, an Egyptian official said.

The Red Cross and World Food Program trucks, which carried rice, wheat and medical supplies, were the first deliveries allowed by Israel since 80 trucks moved through Friday after Israel opened three border crossings.

More than 110 Hamas rockets have been launched into Israel by Hamas militants since Saturday morning, an Israel Defense Forces spokesman said. An Israeli man died when a rocket slammed into a home Saturday, IDF said.

An Israeli police spokesman said that one rocket landed north of Ashkelon, which sits about 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of the Gaza border. The city has been a frequent target of missiles launched from Gaza.

Gaza City's main police station and jail were hit by Israeli missiles Sunday morning, according to a Gaza-based journalist.

At least two people were killed when a missile struck the Seraya compound, which houses various Hamas military organizations in central Gaza City. Another two people were killed when an airstrike hit a vehicle.

Missiles also hit near the Beit Hanoun City Hall, according to a reporter there, and Palestinian sources said Israeli bombs fell on the Palestinian side of the Rafah tunnels on the Egyptian border with southern Gaza.

An Israeli army spokesman confirmed the airstrike. He said it targeted 40 tunnels on the border, which he said Hamas uses to smuggle weapons into Gaza.

Two tunnels were hit by missiles, eyewitnesses said, and others collapsed. Two people were killed.

Palestinians began trying to cross over into Egypt through a hole in the wall after the bombing, the witnesses said, but Egyptian police and Hamas gunmen began firing in an attempt to stop them.

More than 40 airstrikes were carried out Sunday, the Israeli army said. An IDF spokesman said Israel had struck 210 Hamas targets since Saturday morning.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the U.N., said the casualty toll in the past day forced U.N. Security Council members to confront Israel to end the attacks.

The Security Council issued a brief press statement which fell short of the resolution that the Palestinians requested.

The statement expressed "serious concern at the escalation of the situation in Gaza," but it did not single out Israel or Hamas when it called for "an immediate halt for all violence."

Israel's ambassador to the U.N., Gabriela Shalev, responded that her country was only defending itself from Hamas rocket attacks.

"The last days were so bad that we had to say, and did say, 'Enough is enough,' " Shalev said. "The only party to blame is the Hamas."

Hamas, however, vowed to retaliate, saying Israel had violated an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire intended to stem violence in the region.

"We will stand up, we will defend our own people, we will defend our land and we will not give up," senior spokesman Osama Hamdan said.

The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, supported Israel's contention that it was up to Hamas to stop the violence.

"Israel has the right to self defense and nothing in this press statement should be read as anything but that," Khalilzad said.

The United States has cautioned Israel, however, to avoid civilian casualties. Israeli leaders maintain they are attempting to do so.

Anti-Israeli demonstrations erupted in the West Bank. One person was killed and three others injured in a demonstration in Niilin, a Palestinian official said. An Israeli military spokeswoman said hundreds of Palestinians threw rocks and then fired shots at Israeli forces that were attempting to disperse them.

The power base for Abbas' Fatah party is in the West Bank. The party is locked in a power struggle with Hamas, which won parliamentary elections in January 2006 and wrested Gaza from Fatah in violent clashes last year. Abbas, a U.S. ally, wields little influence in Gaza.

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