US gives green signal to Israel to launch ground invasion of Gaza

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Washington, Jan.3 (ANI): U.S. President George W. Bush's administration is reported to have given Israel the green signal to decided when it wants to send ground troops into the Gaza Strip to neutralise the Hamas once and for all.

According to reports, Bush is likely to urge all parties involved in the present conflict to press the Hamas to stop firing rockets at Israel and secure a lasting ceasefire, after a week of heavy Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip.

So far, 436 Palestinians have died in the Israeli air strikes and 2,290 others have been wounded. At least 75 of those killed have been children, according to emergency services inside Gaza.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Gordon Johndroe earlier said the United States has urged Israel to avoid civilian casualties in their military operations, whether they involve continued air assaults or a ground incursion.

"Those will be decisions made by the Israelis," he said when asked if Israel would be justified in launching a ground assault.

Israel has thousands of troops massed for a ground offensive on Gaza that would aim to deal a hammer blow to Hamas and re-establish Israel's military credentials with its other foes, experts said.

After briefing Bush earlier, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Washington sought a "ceasefire that would not allow a re-establishment of the status quo ante where Hamas can continue to launch rockets out of Gaza."

She added, "It is obvious that ceasefire should take place as soon as possible, but we need a ceasefire that is durable and sustainable."

Meanwhile, the Japanese Government has pledged 10 million dollars in humanitarian aid to people living in the Gaza Strip.

Prime Minister Taro Aso made the offer in a telephone conversation with Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, government officials said.

Premier Aso also called on Abbas to make efforts to bring about a cessation of hostilities. Aso also asked his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert to halt the air strikes and allow transportation of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In response, Olmert said the attacks against Hamas were being made in self-defence and promised cooperation over delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.(ANI)

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