Bethlehem – Ma’an – Israeli airstrikes continue to bombard Gaza and Palestinian military factions launch homemade projectiles at Israeli targets.
The toll for Saturday’s violence is 225 Palestinians dead and 300-600 injured. Medical sources say most victims are arriving to Gaza City hospitals in “pieces,” while Israeli sources reported one dead, five injured.
Two massive waves of airstrikes dropped 100 bombs on Gaza at 11:30 and a second at approximately 2pm. Smaller strikes hit northern Gaza at 5:30 and 8pm.
Israeli strikes targeted de facto government buildings; one Hamas source told Ma’an “every de facto security building was targeted.” Confirmed casualties include Commander of the de facto Government Police Tawfiq Jabir, Governor of the Al-Wusta (central) Districts Ahmad Abu Aashur and Commander of Security and Protection Services in the de facto government police Ismail Al-Ja'bari.
Islam Shahwan, a Hamas police spokesman, said that the attacks destroyed most of the police headquarters in the Gaza Strip and that a police graduation ceremony was being held during the assault.
Saturday afternoon Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared the 20 square kilometers of Gaza a “special military zone.” The classification is one degree below a declaration of total war against an enemy state.
Following the first wave of airstrikes Gazan militants fired projectiles towards the western Negev town of Netivot. One projectile made a direct hit on a civilian home, killing one man and injuring five others, one seriously.
As fighting petered out Saturday evening Palestinian militants launched a Russian-made Grad missile at the Israeli city of Ashkelon. The projectile did not explode. Several Brigades responded Saturday after dark by launching projectiles at Israeli targets. No new injuries have been reported.
Following the first wave of airstrikes Hamas has ordered its militant wing the Al-Qassam Brigades to respond “by any means necessary.”
Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum called for a massive response to the airstrikes and a renewal of operations within Israel. He also asked Palestinians to “remain patient in light of these Israeli crimes.”
Islamic Jihad leader Khaled Al-Batsh said that the Israeli attack amounts to “open war” against Palestinians, intended “to put down the resistance.”
Al-Batsh condemned international and Arab States for their “silence on such massacres.” He also swore that what had happened “would never make the resistance factions surrender.”
Later Saturday evening the de facto government announced three days of mourning for the Gaza dead and warned Israel that there would be consequences for their actions.
Hospitals overrun with dead bodies
Palestinian medical sources described at least 80 of the wounded as arriving to hospital in “pieces,” and Head of Emergency and Ambulance Services in the Ministry of Health Muawiya Hassanain confirmed that medical crews were still pulling dozens from underneath rubble.
Hassanain sent a plea to all Arab governments to send medications and operating supplies to Gaza, saying most of the injured were too badly injured to be moved outside the Strip. Hospital corridors are filled with bodies and gurneys, and local morgues have run out of space.
Anyone with mild or moderate wounds has been sent home and refused follow-up treatment.
Palestinian protests in West Bank, East Jerusalem
As the news of the massive Israeli attacks in Gaza spread across the West Bank, demonstrations erupted in all West Bank cities as well as several neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.
In Hebron and Jerusalem demonstrating youth clashed with Israeli soldiers resulting in dozens of arrests and injuries.