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Olmert: Israel to Continue Gaza Offensive


Fighting continued in Gaza Friday despite a U.N. resolution calling for an immediate end to hostilities. Both sides in the conflict rejected demands for an immediate cease-fire.

The U.N. resolution calls for an immediate, durable and fully-respected cease-fire, but on the ground in Gaza there was no indication it would be quickly implemented.

After a meeting of Israel's security Cabinet, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert released a statement, saying continued rocket fire from Hamas showed that an immediate cease-fire is not workable. He said Israel's military operations would continue.

And on the ground they did, Israeli aircraft hit at least 50 targets overnight, and plumes of smoke rose into the air from missiles, bombs and explosions through the day.

Hamas also remained defiant. Its militants continued to fire rockets into southern Israel.

A Hamas spokesman in Beirut, Usama Hamdan, also rejected calls for an end to fighting.

Speaking on Arabic television, he said Hamas does not feel bound by the U.N. resolution and will not implement it. Hamas needs to be included in talks beforehand, he said, since it is the power on the ground in Gaza.

Among the diplomats who hammered out the U.N. Resolution was Britain's Foreign Secretary, David Miliband. Speaking on British television he insisted it was a first step.

"There is a clear message about ending the flow of rockets into Israel, there's a clear message about the need for opening the humanitarian crossings, vital for the food and fuel and medicine and above all, the need for the immediate durable cease-fire that is fully respected by all sides," he said.

The United States abstained from the vote, saying it wants to see the outcome of mediation efforts by Egypt.

Diplomatic pressure to end to the fighting is expected to increase, amid growing concerns about the plight of civilians inside Gaza.

The United Nations announced Thursday it was stopping aid distribution in Gaza after its personnel, installations and convoys came under Israeli attacks.

Humanitarian workers have said the three-hour suspension in fighting that Israel initiated Wednesday is not enough to get food and supplies out to civilians throughout the Gaza Strip.

A U.N. report citing Palestinian Ministry of Health tallies, says that nearly 760 people have been killed in Gaza since the Israeli offensive began December 27. - including nearly 260 children. Other Palestinian medical sources have put the casualty figures higher.

Israel says its air and ground attacks are targeting only Hamas-related targets and it blames Hamas for positioning its fighters and rockets in civilian areas.

Israel has also closed off the occupied West Bank and restricted access for Palestinians to Friday prayers in Jerusalem's Old City in an effort to avert street demonstrations. Some sporadic protests and clashes with police were reported.

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