Gaza casualty toll on the rise, Israeli strikes continue on day 20

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A Palestinian woman cries out amid destroyed buildings in the northern district of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip during an temporary humanitarian truce on July 26, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Mohammed Abed)

Published Sunday, July 27, 2014

Updated at 8:35 pm: Emergency services spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra said on Sunday that 1032 Palestinians were killed and 6233 were injured in the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza.

According to al-Qudra, 189 Palestinians were killed in north Gaza, 297 in central Gaza, 129 in al-Wista, 306 in Khan Younis, and 111 in Rafah. From the 6233 injured, 1912 were injured in north Gaza,1853 in central Gaza, 851 in al-Wista,906 in Khan Younis, and 711 in Rafah.

Al-Qudra also posted the latest Gaza casualty statistics. From the 1032 killed, 236 were children, 93 were women, and 47 were elderly. From the 6233 injured, 1994 are children, 1169 are women, and 257 are elderly.

On another note, Hamas agreed to a 24-hour humanitarian truce with Israel in the Gaza Strip that should start within the hour, the group's spokesman said on Sunday.

"In response to UN intervention and considering the situation of our people and the occasion of Eid, it has been agreed among resistance factions to endorse a 24-hour humanitarian calm, starting from 2:00 pm on Sunday," Sami Abu Zuhri told Reuters.

However, Israeli strikes continued to hit Gaza past 2:00 pm, including inside Gaza City.

Netanyahu was due to convene his cabinet later on Sunday to decide how to move forward, and at least one senior minister said Israel must step up its offensive.

"After what we saw this morning, it is clear we need to resume fighting with even greater force," Communications Minister Gilad Erdan told Army Radio.

Netanyahu questioned the validity of the truce.

Israeli artillery guns also fired barrages into the Gaza Strip, Israeli media reported, although the object of the fire was initially unclear.

"Hamas doesn't even accept its own ceasefire, it's continuing to fire at us as we speak," Netanyahu said in an interview with CNN, adding that Israel would "take whatever action is necessary to protect our people.".

Both sides observed a 12-hour truce since it came into force on 8:00 am Saturday. The bodies of over 147 Palestinians were recovered from rubble across Gaza during Saturday's truce.

An extension accepted on Sunday by Israel was rejected by Hamas which continued firing over the border, with one rocket killing a soldier.

Hamas had said it would only endorse the ceasefire if Israel removes its troops from the areas into which it has invaded in the Gaza Strip.

"Any humanitarian calm that does not include the withdrawal of occupation soldiers from the Gaza Strip and enable the people to return to their houses and to evacuate the wounded is not acceptable," said Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas spokesman.

"No humanitarian ceasefire is valid without Israeli tanks withdrawing from the Gaza Strip," another Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhum, said.

At 10:00 am on Sunday, the Israeli army had announced it was resuming its military operations in Gaza launched on July 8.

UNICEF, the UN agency for children, has said 192 children have been killed during the latest conflict so far. The main UN agency in Gaza, UNRWA, said 167,269 displaced Palestinians have taken shelter in the organization's schools and buildings.

People also ventured out on Saturday to stock up on supplies and quickly return to homes they had fled to pick up more belongings.

In many places they found devastation: buildings leveled, and entire blocks of homes wiped out by the Israeli bombardment.

East of southern Khan Younis, residents hesitated to enter the Khuzaa neighborhood, saying Israeli forces remained inside the border area.

And in nearby Bani Suheila, where 20 people were killed in a single Israeli air strike shortly before the truce began, women and children wept as they discovered their homes destroyed.

Israel's military has said it will need more time to destroy a warren of tunnels that criss-cross the Gaza border that it says is one of its main objectives

Meanwhile, Egypt's army said Sunday it has destroyed 13 more tunnels connecting the Sinai Peninsula to the Gaza Strip, taking to 1,639 the overall number it has laid waste to. Due to the crippling Israeli blockade, the smuggling tunnels to Egypt have come to represent a lifeline for the Gaza Strip.

Since the ouster of President Mohammed Mursi in July 2013, Egypt has taken a harsh stance against Hamas, punishing by extension all of Gaza's population by limiting its ability to smuggle in food, medicine and construction materials.

Forty-three Israeli soldiers have been killed during the offensive. One mortar shell killed an Israeli soldier on Sunday, the army said after announcing the deaths of two more soldiers who had succumbed to wounds sustained earlier in the week.

Three civilians, including two Israeli citizens and a Thai laborer, have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza.

International community pushing for negotiations

The moves came after world powers met in Paris to mull ways of ending 19-days of bloodshed raging in Gaza.

World leaders had urged the two sides to build on Saturday's truce to enable negotiations for a longer-term ceasefire, with Israel's security cabinet to again Sunday to discuss the matter.

In Paris, US Secretary of State John Kerry met European and Middle Eastern foreign ministers Saturday to push both sides to extend the temporary cessation of hostilities.

"We all call on parties to extend the humanitarian ceasefire," France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said after meeting with Kerry and counterparts from Britain, Germany, Italy, Turkey and Qatar, as well as an EU representative.

A spokesman for the UN chief said in a statement Ban Ki-moon "urgently appeals once again to all parties to declare a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza."

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo with UN chief Ban after the rejection, Kerry said Israel and Hamas "still had some terminology" to agree to on a ceasefire, but added they had a "fundamental framework" on a truce.

The two sides remain at odds over the shape of a final agreement to end the fighting, however.

Hamas says any truce must include a guaranteed end to Israel's eight-year blockade of Gaza, while in Israel there are calls for any deal to include the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and the destruction of all tunnels used by Palestinian fighters.

The situation in Gaza has also created tension in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem, where protests erupted Friday and again Saturday.

Medics said eight Palestinians were killed on Friday in incidents near the West Bank cities of Nablus and Hebron - the sort of death toll reminiscent of previous uprisings against Israel's prolonged military rule there.

According to Israeli newspaper Haaretz, at least 7,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv on Saturday to denounce the deadly Israeli offensive on Gaza.

(AFP, Reuters, Al-Akhbar)


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