Almotamar.net, Agencies - 256 Palestinians killed or wounded in Israeli aggressions
A parliamentarian from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement on Saturday called for stopping the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in response to Israeli offensive against Gaza Strip.
"We expect a firm political response from the Palestinian negotiator to the horrible massacres against the Palestinian people," said Ashraf Jum'a, a Gaza-based lawmaker.
While Fatah adopts the peace choice as a strategic goal, the negotiations should not keep on without an end or a clear vision, Jum'a said.
Jum'a said the Israeli military operations into Gaza Strip were "war crimes reflecting the state terrorism that the Israeli occupation forces implement."
Twenty Palestinians were killed in an Israeli ground operation in northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, raising the death toll of a four-day offensive to 54, including 12 children.
Israel says the attacks were aimed at stopping Palestinian rocket-fire against southern Israel's territories. Hamas, which rules Gaza Strip, says it had resumed rocket barrages on Israel after the army killed five fighters on Wednesday.
"The Israeli massacres, committed in Gaza Strip and West Bank, will leave destructive results in the region because they will generate a wide Palestinian reaction that the whole region will not endure," Jum'a warned.
Israeli air and artillery strikes have killed 32 Palestinian residents of Gaza, 16 of them civilians.
This brings the number of Palestinian deaths in the coastal strip to above 60 in four days.
The deaths came in some of the heaviest Israeli raids on Gaza since Hamas took control. The rising Palestinian death toll came a day after Israeli deputy defence minister, Matan Vilnai, warned that increasing rocket fire from Gaza would bring Palestinians a shoah – the Hebrew word normally used to denote the Nazi Holocaust inflicted on Jews during the second world war.
"As the rocket fire grows, and the range increases – and they haven't yet said the last word on this – they are bringing upon themselves a greater shoah because we will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground," he said.
The latest round of clashes, which began on Wednesday, has renewed threats of an Israeli invasion of Gaza to crush militant rocket squads that bombarded southern Israel daily. Over 60 people have died since battles between Israel and Palestinians of Gaza spiked earlier this week.
At least 32 of the Palestinian dead were civilians, the youngest a 6-month-old boy.
The Israeli military, which sent troops, tanks and aircraft after defiant Gaza fighters, said it only attacks rocket-launching operations, but noted that militants sometimes operate within civilian areas.
Although Israel evacuated Gaza in late 2005, a low level and sporadic conflict confined to home-made Palestinian missiles on one side and Israeli air and artillery strikes on the other has escalated, as Israel has sought to use the missile fire as an excuse for an aggressive campaign against Hamas after declaring Gaza a hostile entity in September.
On Thursday, militants raised the stakes significantly by firing rockets into Ashkelon, a coastal city of 120,000 people.
While Ashkelon had been targeted sporadically before, it has never suffered direct hits. The assault increased the pressure on Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert to protect a widening circle of people at risk.
The renewed violence appears to have torpedoed any hopes that an impending visit by US secretary of state Condleezza Rice can bring about a breakthrough in peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.
But despite the present Israeli attacks - and the threats of worse to come - many in the Israeli defence and political establishment are dubious that the Israeli Defence Forces have any real prospect of reducing rocket fire by their present tactics or that a full scale incursion up to reoccupation - which has been suggested by some, could be achieved without casualties intolerable for the Israeli public.