Gaza: Israel pushed ahead with its offensive in the Gaza Strip on Friday, ignoring a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the 14-day-old conflict.
Israeli warplanes dropped bombs on the outskirts of the city of Gaza, residents said. Elsewhere, Palestinian medics said tanks shelled a house in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip, killing six Palestinians from the same family.
The Israeli air force hit at least 50 targets across the enclave, including launching pads for rockets and facilities used to manufacture rockets, an army spokesman said.
In New York, the Security Council passed a resolution urging an “immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire”, and for Israel to withdraw from Gaza after its two-week air-and-ground offensive. The United States abstained.
Israel’s leaders convened early on Friday to debate the resolution. The security cabinet would later vote on whether to push ahead with the offensive or cease fire unilaterally, an Israeli official said.
Israel’s military commanders appeared keen to pursue what was termed a third stage of the operation with additional ground troops being sent into the heart of Gaza’s built-up areas to flush out more gunmen and to try to secure more gains.
Gaza’s Hamas rulers sent mixed signals about the resolution. Hamas spokesman Ayman Taha said the group did not recognise the resolution as it had not been consulted. However another spokesman said Hamas was “studying” the resolution.
The resolution, pressed for by Arab countries in the face of efforts by Britain, France and the United States for a more muted statement, called for arrangements to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza and for its borders to be opened.
It said there should be “unimpeded provision” and distribution of aid to the territory, home to 1.5 million people, many of whom are dependent on food assistance.
The UN Relief and Works Agency, which distributes the vast majority of aid in Gaza, kept its operations suspended on Friday after the death of one of its drivers in Israel’s offensive. It was not clear when aid distribution would resume.
Hamas officials said the Palestinian death toll had risen to 783, of whom more than a third were children.
The Israeli army said militants fired at least four rockets into Israel on Friday. No injuries or damage were reported.
While the United States abstained from the UN resolution, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington backed the text and had abstained only because it wanted to see the results of an Egyptian mediation effort.
Israel deployed 3,000 policemen in Jerusalem ahead of Friday prayers in the Old City. Police limited Palestinian access to the prayers to men aged over 55 and women over 50.