The Times:

Israel was poised last night for a big ground offensive in the Gaza Strip after allowing hundreds of foreigners to leave the devastated territory.

The Times understands that by this morning Israeli troops and tanks could be operating inside the area as part of large-scale operation to prevent Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel.

A week of airstrikes has killed at least 430 Palestinians and left scores of buildings as rubble, despite diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire. Hamas rocket attacks have killed four Israelis since the fighting began.

Among the mounting Palestinian death toll yesterday were three young brothers, aged 7 to 10, who were killed in one of the 30 or so strikes carried out by Israeli warplanes. All along the border, Israeli tanks and troops have turned fields into muddy, makeshift camps from which to launch their offensive. The Government has already mobilised more than 6,000 reserve troops and has given the green light to call up almost 3,000 more. Artillery barrages were also fired into the strip, while aircraft bombed the open ground that the hundreds of troops will need to cross, and where Hamas has placed mines and dug tunnels to outflank the invaders.

al Jazeera reports Hamas is ready and UNRWA commissioner is “appalled” by Gazan “suffering”:

Hamas’ political leader has warned Israel that its army will be defeated if it invades the Gaza Strip.

“If you commit the stupidity of launching a ground offensive then a black destiny awaits you,” Khaled Meshaal said in a recorded speech aired on Friday.

“You will soon find out that Gaza is the wrath of the God,” he said….

“This battle was imposed on us and we are confident we will achieve victory because we have made our preparations.

“Our position is clear. We will not give in. Our resolve cannot be broken,” he said.

“Our demand is also clear. The war must end, the siege lifted, and crossing points open without restriction.”

Talking to Al Jazeera, Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official in Beirut, said that the party to be blamed for the present situation is Israel, not Hamas.

“It’s clear now that Israelis are blocking all the political solutions. The main question is supposed to be what will be the right end for this? And the clear answer is ending the occupation.”

Karen Abu Zayed, the commissioner for the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza, said that in eight years of working in Gaza the need for aid had “never been so acute”.

“I am appalled and saddened when I see the suffering around me,” she said, adding UNRWA has made an emergency appeal for $34m to help the Gaza population.

Hasan Khalaf, Gaza’s assistant deputy health minister, described the ongoing assault on Gaza as “an Israeli massacre”.

US weapons are being used for the massacre in Gaza to which the White House and Pres.-elect Obama tryranically (yet, simultaneously cowardly) consent.

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