GAZA CITY - The Israeli-besieged Palestinian Gaza Strip on Sunday marked one year since the start of the deadliest-ever offensive waged by Israel on the isolated enclave, swathes of which still remain in ruins.
Sirens were to wail throughout the Palestinian territory at 11:20 am (0920 GMT), when the first bombs of Israel's "Operation Cast Lead" slammed into the coastal strip.
Several demonstrations were to be held during the day and democratically-elected Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya was to make a television address in the evening, with Hamas planning to stage events for 22 days, the length of the war.
"The goal of these events is that this war and its massacres, which had no precedent, should remain before the eyes of the world," said Ihab al-Ghussein, a spokesman for the Hamas interior ministry.
"This is so that the leaders of this Zionist war will be judged," he added.
On Saturday, December 27, 2008, Israeli warplanes launched simultaneous strikes on numerous targets throughout the territory of 1.5 million people, raids that killed at least 225 people in what was one of the bloodiest single days in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The war ended 22 days later with mutual ceasefires by Israel and Hamas, with some 1,400 Palestinians (mainly civilians) and 13 Israelis left dead and entire neighbourhoods of Gaza flattened in the onslaught.
The war ushered in the calmest period in years along the borders of Gaza as the ceasefires have held despite occasional violations by both sides.
But Israel has come under intense criticism from the international community and human rights groups who have accused it of disproportionate force during the operation, including the use of white phosphorous in residential areas.
A UN Human Rights Council-commissioned report released several months ago accused both Israel and Palestinian resistance fighters of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity during the offensive.
Israel has also faced withering criticism over a blockade that it on Gaza.
The blockade, under which only basic humanitarian supplies are allowed into the impoverished territory where the vast majority of people depend on foreign aid, has been repeatedly slammed by rights groups as collective punishment.
"The only things getting built in Gaza are desperation and despair," the New York-based Human Rights Watch said in a statement on the eve of the war.
The group also accused both Israel and Hamas of failing to take punitive action against members of their own forces accused of serious violations during the fighting.
Some 6,400 homes were severely damaged or destroyed during the war, according to UN figures. Most of the tens of thousands of people who lost homes now share crowded apartments with relatives or huddle under tents supplied by aid groups.
Last week 16 rights groups last week said the international community had "betrayed" the people of Gaza by failing to end the sanctions, which have kept out virtually all building materials and severely hampered reconstruction.
Meanwhile analysts warn that the continuation of the Israeli siege of Gaza, which is still considered under illegal Israeli occupation, would inevitably lead to a new round of violence.