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Eleven children among 21 killed on sixth day of Israeli air assault

Jan. 1, 2009 10:46 P.M. (Updated: Jan. 1, 2009 10:46 P.M.)
Gaza - Ma'an - New Year's Day marked the sixth consecutive day of Israel's air and artillary strikes on the Gaza Strip. The day's violence left at least 21 Palestinians dead, including 11 children and nine women.

Medical sources in Gaza said the death toll increased to 418 and the number of injured to about 2,100 by the end of Thursday, roughly 250 of them injured critically.

A targeted strike on a packed apartment building, the home of a prominent Hamas leader, left the leader dead along with 13 of his family members who were living in the same four-story home. The building was demolished after being struck by two Israeli missiles on Thursday afternoon.

Israeli warplanes continued to attack homes and headquarters of the Palestinian government. Aircraft destroyed the house of Hamas leader Nizar Rayan, killing him and his family.

Later, jets fired on targets in the Sheikh Radwan neighborhood of Gaza City and a metal workshop nearby. Purported sites for armed groups' projectile launches were hit, as well, west of Gaza City. One of the strikes there killed six and injured numerous others, witnesses said.

Meanwhile, renewed targeting of the southern Rafah border with Egypt left several wounded.

Israel also launched several raids throughout New Year's Day on the headquarters of the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City and the Ministries of Justice, Education and Civil Defense within the Palestinian government.

Also targeted on Thursday were sites in northern Gaza, where an air raid leveled the School of Applied Sciences, a Palestinian community college. No injuries were reported in that particular attack on an educational institution, which an Israeli spokesperson maintained was "a Hamas school."

Separate missiles targeted a police car, a printing center in Gaza City and an armed group near the Khaled bin Walid School at Nusseirat Refugee Camp in central Gaza. A house belonging to Abu Ahmad Tawfiq was among two destroyed in the refugee camp, causing a number of injuries.

An attack on a group of fighters east of Gaza City was survived by all parties, who escaped without injury, according to a statement sent to Ma'an. The same group later managed to launch an assortment of rockets and projectiles at the Israeli city of Kfar Azza.

Other factions continued pounding southern Israel with rockets, where projectiles hit Ashkelon, Beersheva and Sderot. No Israeli injuries were immediately reported on Thursday other than "shock."

On a separate note, Israel announced that it would permit some 400 foreigners living in Gaza to exit the war zone on Friday, sources said.

As for the other 1.5 million Palestinians living in the besieged coastal strip, no evidence indicated that the onslaught will end anytime soon as residents are preparing for a ground invasion over the weekend, which many say is imminent.

***Updated 23:30 Bethlehem time
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