Gaza Neighborhoods Fall to Machine Gun Battles

Israeli troops shoot it out with militants in suburbs as Egypt tries to broker ceasefire
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 14, 2009 2:12 AM CST

(Newser) – Israeli troops are battling Hamas militants in the suburbs of Gaza City, filling residential streets with the chilling rat-a-tat-tat of machine gun fire, reports the BBC. Israeli forces have advanced deep into several neighborhoods, and air strikes hit 60 targets in Gaza overnight, including tunnels under the Egyptian border and the old Gaza city hall. Palestinian officials say the death toll has now hit 971, with some 40% of the victims women and childrens, according to the UN.

Israeli officials say the push is aimed at keeping the pressure on Hamas while a ceasefire proposal involving halting the smuggling of weapons into Gaza is negotiated with Egypt. "If the Egyptians provide us with guarantees that the smuggling will stop, the operation could be over by the end of the week," a top defense official told the Jerusalem Post. "It is all up to the Egyptians right now."