DFA SENDING TEAM TO GAZA TO EVACUATE PINOYS / GAZA STRIP DEATH TOLL RISING


[PHOTO - An Israeli border policeman fires a tear gas canister during a protest against Israel's operations in Gaza Strip, outside Ofer, an Israeli military prison near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012.AP/Majdi Mohammed]

MANILA, NOVEMBER 19, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Dennis Carcamo - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced on Monday that it will be sending a team to Egypt and Israel to evacuate Filipinos living at the Gaza strip where attacks by Israeli military were expected to intensify.

DFA Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez said in a media briefing that a rapid response team will be leaving for Egypt and then to Israel on Monday night.

"We are sending a rapid response team because we want to respond to any eventuality...and coordinate with experts in the evacuation movements," Hernandez said.

He noted that they are eyeing two possible exit points from Gaza: one at the border of Egypt and the one at Jordan.

To date, there are about a hundred Filipinos at the Gaza strip.

Meanwhile, Hernandez said the condition of Filipinos in Israel remains normal.

He said the Israeli government have constructed bomb shelters in anticipation of the Hamas rebels' shelling.

CTV NEWS CANADA

Civilian death toll climbs in Israel-Gaza crisis as world leaders urge ceasefire CTVNews.ca Staff Published Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 9:12AM EST Last Updated Monday, Nov. 19, 2012 10:32AM EST

More Palestinian civilians were caught in the line of fire Monday as Israel expanded the scope of its campaign in the Gaza Strip, hitting densely packed areas of the territory with airstrikes.

Israel began targeting the Gaza homes of Hamas activists and suspected military commanders over the weekend, bolstering its efforts to stop Hamas rocket fire on the state. The new approach, however, has led to an increased number of civilian casualties as airstrikes devastate more crowded areas of Gaza.

At least 91 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli campaign began six days ago. According to a Gaza health official, more than 24 of those individuals were civilians killed in the last 24 hours.

In Pictures: Israel and Gaza Exchange Rocket Attacks

In Israel, Hamas rocket fire has killed three civilians and wounded dozens of others.

An Israeli missile defence system called the “Iron Dome” has shot down hundreds of rockets, the majority of the missiles aimed at the southern part of the country, Israel’s military said.

International observers continue to call for a ceasefire, a solution that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has been attempting to broker.

Both sides, however, have attached terms to a potential truce and appear to be unwavering in their demands.

In an interview from Jerusalem, CTV's Beijing Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer noted that both Israel and Hamas would like reassurance that they will not be on the receiving end of rocket fire.

“There certainly isn’t a backing off on either side,” she told Canada AM. “Israel is saying it will not talk about a ceasefire until the rockets stop, whereas Hamas is also holding to its line, saying that the missiles can’t stop from just one side.”

Hamas has also asked that Israel lift its blockade on the territory and cease targeted killings of the group’s leaders and military commanders. So far, the requests have been rejected.

A senior Egyptian official said Monday that by the end of the day mediators hope to have a clearer idea of whether a ceasefire will be possible.

In an interview with the Associated Press, the official said Egypt wants to stop the fighting and “find a direct way to lift the siege of Gaza.”

Turkey and Qatar are assisting with the negotiations.

Reports also indicate that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive in Cairo Monday to participate in the ceasefire efforts.

In Brussels, officials with the European Union have also weighed in on the conflict.

Speaking to a gathering of foreign and defence ministers Monday, EU policy chief Catherine Ashton called for an end to rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. Meanwhile, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt urged an immediate ceasefire, and a subsequent review of wider issues between Israel and Gaza.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama have stated publicly that Israel has the right to defend itself against Hamas-launched missiles. But it’s unclear how far that support will extend as Israel considers a ground incursion into Gaza.

If he chooses to put troops on the ground, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu risks increasing military and civilian casualties and losing outside support, said Mackey Frayer.

“Four years ago, when there was a ground offensive, a ceasefire followed and there was the promise that calm would prevail on both sides,” she noted. “Effectively what it yielded was an opportunity for militants in the Gaza Strip to restock their arsenals with stronger missiles.”

In the latest round of violence, Hamas fired at least 75 rockets into Israel on Monday. Reports indicate one of those missiles hit an empty school.

Meanwhile, Israel’s Iron Dome system managed to intercept twenty Hamas-launched rockets on Monday, according to a police spokesperson.

Those rockets landed in the open areas of Asheklon, Ashdod and Seersheva, he said.

With files from The Associated Press


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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