Gaza Medics: Palestinian Death Toll Nears 900

Gaza, Israel (RushPRnews) 01/12/09-Israeli warplanes are pounding the homes of Hamas fighters in Gaza and are bombing smuggling tunnels near the Egyptian border, while Israel’s troops move farther into populated areas of the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s military says it launched around 15 air strikes overnight Sunday-Monday, marking one of the lowest levels of night-time bombings since the Israeli offensive began 17 days ago.

Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair said in Cairo Monday that elements are in place for a cease-fire to end fighting in the Gaza Strip. The U.S., U.N., EU and Russia make up the Quartet.

Medical officials in Gaza say at least 895 Palestinians have been killed in the offensive, which Israel says is to stop Hamas militants from firing missiles into southern Israel. The Palestinian rocket attacks continue, even as Israel sends reserve units into Gaza.

Medical officials say about half of the Palestinian casualties are civilians. Israel has kept foreign reporters from entering Gaza, and casualty figures are hard to confirm.

Ten Israeli soldiers have been killed in the fighting, and three Israeli civilians have died in rocket fire.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in his weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday that the military will continue the offensive against Hamas until rocket attacks on Israel stop.

Both Israel and Hamas have refused calls from the U.N. Security Council and others for a cease-fire.

Some Israeli strikes have targeted smuggling tunnels near the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. Hamas militants use the networks of tunnels to smuggle supplies.