Gaza death toll at 573 as Israel bombs homes, hospital
Published Monday, July 21, 2014
Updated 11:41 pm: Nonstop Israeli jet, tank and naval attacks targeting homes and a hospital killed at least 56 people in Gaza Monday, bringing the death toll in a two-week-long assault on the besieged strip to 573.
And the Israeli army said another seven soldiers had been killed in fighting in Gaza, raising the overall Israeli death toll to 27, including 25 troops.
Gaza emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said air strikes and shelling killed 56 people across the enclave on Monday, and another 68 bodies were pulled from the rubble in areas hit by heavy fighting a day earlier.
The latest deaths included six people killed in two artillery strikes, three of whom died in the southern city of Rafah and another three in Deir al-Balah in central Gaza.
A nighttime air strike on a residential tower block in Gaza City killed 11 people, including five children, Qudra said, and a simultaneous strike in the central Strip killed another.
Of the 56 people killed on Monday, around a third of them were children, Qudra said.
Seven children were among nine dead in an early air raid on a house in Rafah, and another four children were killed in another strike on a house in Gaza City that killed nine people.
And Israeli tank shells slammed into the third floor of Al-Aqsa hospital in the central Gaza Strip which housed an intensive care unit and operating theaters in Deir al-Balah, killing four people, among them doctors, Qudra said, indicating at least 70 people were wounded.
Other shells had fallen around the hospital, he added, with officials calling on the Red Cross to help evacuate patients.
Another 33 people were killed in a series of air strikes and tank shelling across the strip.
Of the 68 bodies recovered on Monday, 13 were from al-Shujayeh, hiking the death toll from a ruthless Sunday attack to 74. Qudra said the vast majority were women, children and the elderly.
Another 23 of the bodies were pulled from a three-story house belonging to the Abu Jamaa family in the southern city of Khan Yunis which was hit on Sunday, raising the overall death toll from a single strike to 28, Qudra said.
So far, Palestinian figures show 558 Gazans have been killed and more than 3,350 wounded since the start of the Israeli campaign to stamp out cross-border rocket fire on July 8.
Later, Israeli war jets bombed the Qassas family home in the center of Gaza City, killing nine relatives, including four children.
Residents reported heavy fighting in al-Shujayeh and the adjacent Zeitoun neighborhood near Gaza City. Three were killed in al-Shujayeh.
Locals also said there was heavy shelling in Beit Hanoun, in the northern Gaza Strip.
"It seems we are heading towards a massacre in Beit Hanoun. They drove us out of our houses with their fire. We carried our kids and ran away," said Abu Ahmed, he did not want to give his full name for fear of Israeli reprisals.
"It was a night of horror," the 50 year-old told Reuters.
The UN agency for Palestinian refugees UNRWA has opened 61 of its schools to shelter more than 81,000 people who have fled their homes.
The Doctors Without Borders charity urged Israel to "stop bombing civilians trapped in the Gaza Strip", noting the majority of the injured arriving in the Al-Shifa hospital were women and children.
Israel kills 10 Hamas fighters
Meanwhile Israeli occupation forces killed 10 Palestinian fighters who had infiltrated Israeli occupied territory, with the army announcing it had lost four soldiers in that battle.
Two groups of Palestinian fighters crossed from Gaza via two tunnels in the early morning, opening fire as they entered.
Black and white surveillance footage supplied by the occupation forces, showed one group of five or six men crouching and firing in long grass. Seconds later they were hit by a large explosion, which sent a cloud of smoke and debris flying into the air.
Both Hamas and Israel said that 10 Gaza fighters were killed in the operation.
It was unclear if the four occupation forces killed in that operation were among the seven announced dead earlier Monday.
Hamas "captures" Israeli soldier
Late Sunday, the armed wing of Hamas said it had kidnapped an Israeli soldier, prompting celebrations in the streets of Gaza City and West Bank cities.
"The Israeli soldier Shaul Aaron is in the hands of the Qassam Brigades," a spokesman using the nom-de-guerre Abu Obeida said in a televised address.
Israel's UN ambassador Ron Prosor denied a soldier had been kidnapped, saying: "Those rumors are untrue."
A spokeswoman for the Israeli military said they were investigating the claim.
(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)