Israel: No shift in mission
The Israeli airstrikes, which continued to target rocket-launching sites and weapons depots, slowed throughout the day, even as Israel appeared to be channeling new efforts toward Hamas civilian institutions. Capt. Eytan Buchman, an Israeli military spokesman, said the strikes were “part of our overarching goal of toppling Hamas’s command and control capabilities” and did not mark a shift in mission.
Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister, was apparently not at his office when it was hit.
According to the newspaper Haaretz, Israeli Interior Minister Eli Yishai said the “goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages.”
That is how it felt to Hossam and Sanaa al-Dadah, two teachers who had the misfortune of living next door to a house the Israeli military said belonged to a Hamas commander.
At 6 a.m., the family’s windows shattered and their walls burst open. The adjacent house, in the Jabaliya refugee camp, had been demolished in an airstrike, and suddenly theirs was ruined, too.
In the terrifying moments that followed, Hossam al-Dadah, 50, frantically dug his five children out of the rubble, and a few hours later, they had been taken away to their grandparents’ home. But a dust-caked Sanaa, 40, rushed from room to room, crying and gathering her children’s clothing, school bags and dolls and placing them on a sheet.
Israel says Hamas operates in populated areas to use civilians as human shields, and it has dropped thousands of leaflets over Gaza warning civilians to stay away from Hamas operatives. Sanaa said she never got the message.
“Where are we going to go?” she said again and again. “The Israelis are responsible. They are the enemy of God. What did we do? Did we carry any missiles? Did we launch any rockets?”
Outside the house, children played insouciantly in rubble and scorched cars. Rami Mukayed, a 12-year-old in gray trousers, said he reserved his fear for darkness.
“At night, come see me, I’m panicked,” he said. “I play in the morning. I hide in the evening.”
Effect on peace process
In a speech in Cairo, Erdogan said the Gaza conflict called for a new era of Egyptian-Turkish cooperation.
“If Turkey and Egypt unite, everybody will be singing of peace in the region,” he said. “And if we stick together, the region will no longer be dominated by crying and weeping.”
Speakers at the Arab League meeting made the same argument.
“We can no longer accept empty meetings and meaningless resolutions,” said Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, addressing the assembly at the start of the meeting. He urged Arab states to adopt a “strict stance” on the conflict.
Issandr El Amrani, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations who heads a blog called the Arabist, said the Gaza standoff has presented the new Arab Spring governments and other regional heavyweights an opportunity to reconsider their position on Israel and the peace process in a series of talks that could have long-term regional implications.
For years, the Arab League has floated a proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal that Israel never took seriously, Amrani said. Arab states might now choose to drop that proposal and adopt more aggressive approaches — Egypt could revise the terms of its peace treaty with Israel; Arab states might consider providing covert aid to Hamas; and others will amplify the pressure on Israel through diplomatic corridors, he said.
By Saturday night, despite mounting rhetorical and symbolic support to Gaza’s Hamas leadership, the Arab ministers’ meeting had announced plans to send a delegation to Gaza but had stopped short of pledging immediate material support to Hamas.
“I’ve seen a lot of talk about doing something and how there’s a collective Arab responsibility to act,” Amrani said, “but no one has suggested anything concrete.”
Reyham Abdul-Karim and Islam Abdul-Karim in Gaza City and Ernesto Londoño in Tel Aviv contributed to this report.